Mon, 20 Jan 2020

Rory McIroy turns down millions to play in Saudi Arabia

By Jay Jackson, Ireland News.Net
11 Dec 2019, 00:09 GMT+10

BELFAST, Northern Ireland - Rory McIlroy is the latest top golfer to give Saudi Arabia a wide berth, despite being lured with a multi-million dollar appearance fee.

Tiger Woods earlier this month too vowed he would not play in the European Tour schedule in the Saudi kingdom. He was reportedly offered a $3 million appearance fee.

In explaining his decision McIlroy added, "There's a morality to it as well." This gave speculation to the move by both golfers to pass up on the country because of it's human rights record and the government's widely alleged involved in the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

However both golfers have admitted this is not the case.

"For me, I just don't want to go. I don't want to travel that far. I think the atmosphere looks better at the events on the West Coast. I'd much rather play in front of big golf fans and play in a tournament that really excites me," McIlroy told the Golf channel's 'Morning Drive' program on Monday.

The Northern Irishman said he had no difficulty watching the Anthony Joshua-Andy Ruiz, Jr. boxing match, which took place in Saudi Arabia on the weekend.

"Again, I'm no different. I had no problem watching the world heavyweight title fight there this weekend. I had no problem watching that and cheering on AJ, and all that sort of stuff," McIlroy said.

"You can say that about so many countries, not just Saudi Arabia. You can say that about a lot of countries that we play in, that there's a reason not to go."

"I'd rather play a couple of events on the West Coast and not have to travel all the way to Saudi Arabia," he said. "It's just not something that would excite me."

Similarly Woods who reportedly knocked back the $3 million appearance fee was more concerned about the distance than anything else. "I just don't want to go over there," he said last week. "It's a long way."

The veteran golfer in fact maintained golf should be seen as a means of helping countries improve their human rights records.

"I understand the politics behind it. But also the game of golf can help heal a lot of that, too. It can help grow it. And also a lot of top players are going to be playing there that particular week. It's traditionally not a golf hotbed, the Middle East. But it has grown quite a bit," he told ESPN on Tuesday of last week.

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