LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Tiger Woods said on Wednesday that he decided not to play a recent European Tour tournament in Saudi Arabia because he wanted to keep his “traveling down”.
Four of the world’s five top-ranked players, Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, participated in the Saudi International two weeks ago, lured by large appearance fees for the tour’s first event in the country.
The tournament, however, threw up uncomfortable questions for the sport and split opinion in the golfing world with Saudi Arabia facing intense international criticism after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October.
Woods, who was offered $3 million to play according to media reports, said he turned down the invitation before Khashoggi’s murder.
“I haven’t really played a lot overseas and I turned the opportunity to go to Saudi Arabia down last summer,” Woods said at a news conference at Riviera on the eve of the Genesis Open.
The 14-times major winner has played sparingly overseas since returning to competition just over a year ago after successful spinal fusion surgery.
Woods, who has avoided commenting on politics during his career, said his decision not to play was made “well before anything had transpired”.
“So I just think, I’m trying to keep the traveling down to a minimum and just focus on our tour,” he said.
Additional reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Toby Davis