Tiger Woods twice turned down appearance fees of around $3 million to play in the Saudi International, according to an ESPN report.
Woods told ESPN’s Bob Harig that he was offered the exorbitant amount each of the last two years but declined the invitation.
“I just don’t want to go over there,” Woods told ESPN. “It’s a long way.”
Woods’ disclosure follows the news that Phil Mickelson will play in the European Tour’s Saudi event in late January, skipping the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Mickelson was criticized by some for accepting the invitation from Saudi officials. Last year several PGA Tour players faced backlash for committing to play the Saudi International in the wake of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.
Monday night Mickelson responded on Twitter to the critics. “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’ve never been. I understand those who are upset or disappointed. You’ll be ok. I’m excited to experience this for the first time.”
While Woods won’t be making the trip to Saudi Arabia, he defended Mickelson’s decision to play.
“I understand the politics behind it,” Woods said Tuesday. “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.”
Dustin Johnson won the inaugural Saudi event and will return to defend his title.