Tiger Woods turned down around $3 million of appearance fees to play in the Saudi International, ESPN reports. The golfer did, however, defend his colleague Phil Mickelson and his decision to play in the tournament.
Tiger Woods turned down the offer twice
“I just don’t want to go over there. It’s a long way,” Woods told ESPN.
Phil Mickelson has accepted the invitation to participate in the European Tour’s Saudi event, though. He was heavily criticized for his decision.
Several PGA Tour players received a negative reaction last year for committing to play Saudi International in the wake of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.
“I understand the politics behind it,” Woods said about the controversy.
“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. I remember going to Dubai for my very first time and seeing maybe two or three buildings in the skyline. Now there is a New York City skyline. Again, golf has grown. There were only a few courses when I went to Dubai and now they’re everywhere. Same with Abu Dhabi, and maybe eventually in Saudi Arabia.”
Mickelson, himself, reacted to the critics on Twitter:
“After turning down opportunities to go to the Middle East for many years, I’m excited to go play and see a place in the world I’d never seen,” said Mickelson, who played in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in 2011 and 2014. “I understand those who are upset or disappointed. You’ll be OK. I’m excited to experience this for the first time.”
The event will take place between January 30 and February 2.