“I just don’t want to go over there,” Tiger said. “It’s a long way.”
Woods was offered an appearance fee of roughly $3 million each of the past two years from tournament organizers in Saudi Arabia. That still wasn’t enough for the 15-time major winner to participate in the controversial event.
“I understand the politics behind it. But also the game of golf can help heal a lot of that, too,” Woods said.
He added that traditionally the country hasn’t been a golf hotbed in the Middle East, but Saudi Arabia could follow the same path as Dubai, where the sport has grown significantly since his first visit.
“There were only a few courses when I went to Dubai and now they’re everywhere,” he said. “Same with Abu Dhabi, and maybe eventually in Saudi Arabia.”
The last time Tiger played in the Middle East was the 2017 Dubai Desert Classic. He was forced to withdraw and underwent back-fusion surgery a couple of months afterward.
Mickelson has been heavily criticized for his decision to play the Saudi International instead of the Phoenix Open, an event he’s participated in every year since 1990. He defended his commitment on Twitter.
Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Tony Finau, Sergio Garcia, Shane Lowry, and Henrik Stenson have also committed to the Saudi International.