Rory McIlroy has resisted the lure of the green dollar to rule out any chance of making a first appearance at next month’s Saudi International.
With Nike stablemate Tiger Woods revealing he had turned down an invite to Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, McIlroy has followed suit, albeit providing a much more forthright insight into his reasons for skipping the event.
“It’s just not something that would excite me,” McIlroy said to the Golf Channel where he also denied being offered a $2.5 million incentive to tee up at the tournament.
“One hundred percent, there’s a morality to it as well. You could say that about so many countries, not just Saudi Arabia, but a lot of countries that we play in, there’s a reason not to go, but for me, I just don’t want to go.”
It’s an impressive stand for McIlroy to make. Although the Holywood star is clearly not short of a dollar, neither is the likes of Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson who will all appear at the event – the latter even bypassing his home favourite status at the celebrated Waste Management Phoenix Open in favour of a charitable trip to Saudi Arabia.
And make no mistake about it – the water is more than a little murky when it comes to the debate between sport and politics when weighting up such a decision.
“Heinous” is how Amnesty International describes the Saudi regime’s human rights record but that hasn’t stopped major sporting events being lured to the desert given the money on offer.
Just last weekend, Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr. entered the ring for their world heavyweight title rematch with McIlroy admitting that he did watch the fight, despite the controversial host nation.
But in terms of his own golfing schedule, McIlroy insists he’s much happier playing before golf fans on the West Coast of America than showcasing his talent to those who turn up in Saudi.
“I think the atmosphere looks better at the events on the West Coast and I’d much rather play in front of big golf fans and play in a tournament that really excites me,” he said.
It’s very easy for the European Tour to hide behind a rhetoric that events such as the Saudi International are growing the game of golf but you’d wonder who the beneficiaries of such growth is, or is it simply the case of the rich getting richer regardless of those who suffer behind the morally questionable façade?