By James Corrigan,
Friday November 9, 2018
Tiger Woods could have earned £2.5m by playing in the Saudi tournament next year Credit: PA
Tiger Woods has turned down his biggest ever potential overseas pay cheque to play in the European Tour’s inaugural event in Saudi Arabia next year, amid the international outcry over the recent murder of a journalist.
The 14-time major-winner has previously been willing to traverse the globe to compete, if the appearance fee has been right.
In the past, Woods has travelled to such countries as China and the United Arab Emirates. Yet it is understood he deemed Saudi Arabia to be an excursion too far - even for at least £2.5m - an amount that apparently dwarfs anything he has received before for an official overseas tournament.
Sources say he was first approached in the summer, after his dramatic competitive resurrection at the Open, where he led going into the last nine before finishing sixth, and then at the USPGA Championship, where he finished second.
By then the Kingdom had already signed up Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Paul Casey to play in the government-sponsored event, which has become even more controversial since last month's pre-meditated killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabia Embassy in Istanbul.
Roger Federer has revealed that he snubbed a $1m offered to play in an exhibition in Jeddah on Dec 22 for which Rafael Nadal and Noval Djokovic are still signed up.
It is not known if Woods' refusal was because of the political situation or if it is because he has decided to limit long-haul travel after his many back complaints. However, there can be no doubting the headlines it would have attracted if he had agreed and he and his advisers can be seen as being wise - unwitting or otherwise - for sidestepping the inevitable backlash.
Sport is just one of the ways Saudi Arabia is attempting to project a positive, open image to the world with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bankrolling several long-term partnerships and luring not only the tennis players and golfers, but Brazil and Argentina in a football tournament last month.
Nadal and Djokovic have come under huge pressure to withdraw and last week Keith Pelley, the European Tour chief executive, was questioned on his circuit’s stance.
“I’ll be very, very clear,” Pelley said. “Saudi International is on our schedule and we’ll continue to monitor just like we would do with every other country We have heard some of the criticism of the region. Obviously freedom of speech is far more available now based on social media. We’ve listened and we will continue to monitor the situation.”