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Report: Woods turned down appearance fee for Saudi event

Tiger Woods won’t take part in next year’s European Tour stop in Saudi Arabia, but he was reportedly offered a lucrative chance to do so.

According to an ESPN report, Woods had been offered “in the neighborhood of $3 million” as an appearance fee to play the Saudi International both this year and next, but he turned down organizers both times.

“I just don’t want to go over there,” Woods said. “It’s a long way.”

The inaugural edition was won by Dustin Johnson over a field that included Brooks Koepka, Henrik Stenson, Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia. All players are expected to return for the Jan. 30-Feb. 2 event and will be joined by Shane Lowry, Tony Finau and Phil Mickelson among others. Rory McIlroy and Paul Casey both turned down chances to play earlier this year.

While the PGA Tour does not allow tournaments to pay appearance fees to players, it’s a frequent practice at several European Tour events and stars can often receive six figures (or more) to simply tee it up.

The event’s existence has received criticism because of the country’s questionable human rights record and the government’s alleged involvement in the 2018 murder of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Mickelson’s recent commitment was especially scrutinized, and while Lefty opted to defend his decision on Twitter, Woods was asked by reporters Tuesday at the Hero World Challenge for his view on the situation.

“I understand the politics behind it,” Woods said. “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.”

Woods’ last trip to the area didn’t exactly go as planned. He withdrew from the 2017 Omega Dubai Desert Classic after only one round, citing back spasms, and underwent microdiscectomy surgery two months later. He wouldn’t play again competitively for another eight months.