Woods defends Mickelson's decision to play in Saudi Arabia

Tanya Simon
December 6, 2019

Per a story by the Saudi Gazette, Lefty will play in the European Tour's Saudi International that same weekend at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia.

"I just don't want to go over there", Woods said. "It's a long way".

The European Tour past year came under heavy criticism for adding the Saudi International to its schedule and going ahead with the event, despite the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi a few months previously.

Others committed to the Saudi Arabia tournament are Johnson, world No. 1 Brooks Koepka, Shane Lowry, Patrick Reed, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia, who was disqualified past year for a meltdown in which he damaged the greens. The government of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is believed by the Central Intelligence Agency to have ordered Khashoggi's murder, is funding the tournament's $3.5 million prize money as well as the seven-figure appearance fees for numerous players, according to ESPN.

Mickelson came under criticism for accepting an invitation to play in the event and skipping the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he has played 27 straight years and 30 times overall.

"I'm excited to go play and see a place in the world I've never been", he wrote.

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"I understand the politics behind it, " Woods said of the controversy during his Hero World Challenge news conference. I remember going to Dubai for my first time and seeing maybe two or three buildings in the skyline. "But also the game of golf can help heal a lot of that, too", Woods said.

'Having so many talented players on show also made it look like a much more established tournament than one in its inaugural year'. I am looking forward to experiencing this for the first time.

Johnson told the Associated Press a year ago before the tournament he is "not a politician; I play golf" and was going to do his job, not support the country. But it has grown quite a bit. The sport of golf has grown.

According to ESPN, Tim Woods said at the tournament's "Tee-Off Luncheon" on Tuesday that Mickelson has been a big part of the tournament and he hopes that it isn't his last time playing the Phoenix Open. I've gone on record before saying I don't personally fault anybody for making their money in a professional setting, but I also wouldn't mind seeing a few more millionaires stay away from such a shallow money grab, if they think it's the right thing to do.

Mickelson is the latest and most high-profile player to be subject to a backlash for being part of the Saudi field.

"I am really looking forward to playing in Saudi Arabia in January", Mickelson told the Gazette.

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