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Report: Tiger Woods Turned Down $3.25 Million Offer to Play in Saudi Arabia

Sports Illustrated logo Sports Illustrated 11/8/2018 Daniel Rapaport
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Tiger Woods turned down a $3.25 million offer to play in the Saudi Intertnational, a new European Tour event sponsored by the Saudi government, according to a report from The Telegraph.

Woods has long played in tournaments in far corners of the globe in exchange for high appearance fees. It is not clear whether Woods's refusal of the offer is related to the political situation in Saudi Arabia. The country's government has been under intense scrutiny since the pre-meditated murder of Saudi journalist and government critic Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

The event, which is scheduled for Jan. 31 to Feb. 3, 2019, coincides with the PGA Tour's Waste Management Phoenix Open, a tournament Woods has not played in recent years. The Saudi International does come one week after the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, where Woods is expected to compete. Playing in Saudi Arabia would require him to fly nearly 9,000 miles and overcome an 11-hour time difference in just three days.

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Woods is the second high-profile athlete who reportedly turned down an offer to play in a Saudi government-sponsored sporting event. Tennis legend Roger Federer said he was offered a chance to play in an exhibition match in Jeddah, but declined. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are scheduled to play an exhibition in Saudi Arabia in December, though both players have been criticized for going through with the match amid the political and human rights situation in the country.

Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Paul Casey are among the golfers committed to playing in the event. Keith Pelley, head of the European Tour, was asked about the event given the situation in Saudi Arabia and suggested the tournament would go on as scheduled unless something changes.

“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.”

Woods typically stays tight-lipped on both political matters and pay-for-play appearances, so it would be surprising to hear him elaborate on this report. While he has never publicly stated his political beliefs, Woods has played golf with multiple U.S. presidents, including Barack Obama and Donald Trump. In August, Woods was asked about Trump and steered away from a political discussion, though he did say "we all must respect the office."

Related slideshow: Tiger’s life in pictures (Provided by photo services)

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