Tiger Woods has revealed that he turned down the chance to take part in next month’s Saudi International – but he defended those, including Phil Mickelson, who have decided to do so.
According to a report by ESPN, the 15-time major winner and reigning Masters champion rejected an appearance fee of around $3million to play in the event both earlier this year and next year. However, he turned it down on both occasions.
“I just don’t want to go over there – it’s a long way,” said the 43-year-old.
The Saudi International, first staged this year, has drawn widespread criticism on account of the country’s human rights record, its alleged involvement in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the participation of its Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the execution of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.
Phil Mickelson was roundly condemned on social media when news of his participation in the 2020 edition of the event was confirmed earlier in the week.
In response to his critics, Mickelson replied: “I understand those who are upset or disappointed. You’ll be OK. I’m excited to experience this for the first time.”
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Whilst he won’t be there himself, Woods has no issue with his fellow players taking part.
“I understand the politics behind it, but the game of golf can actually help heal all that, too,” said Woods. “It can help grow that. There are also a lot of other top players that are going to be playing that particular week. It's traditionally not a golf hotbed in the Middle East, but it has grown quite a bit.
“I remember going to Dubai for my very first time and seeing, what, maybe two, three buildings on the skyline when you tee off on No.8.
“Now, there's a New York City skyline back there. The game of golf has grown. There's only been a few courses when I first went to Dubai, now they're everywhere; same with Abu Dhabi and maybe eventually in Saudi Arabia.”