Hello. Welcome to this week’s edition of The Slam. I’m the last – and almost certainly least – of the baying mob waiting to have their say on Saudi Arabia. But I promise there’s something heartwarming after that. Here goes…
As golfers, we’re generally not happy unless we’re disagreeing about something.
Flag in! Flag out! Tiger! Jack! He’s anchoring his putter! Bryson DeChambeau is a genius! No he’s a freak!
And so on.
This week, it’s the inaugural European Tour event in Saudi Arabia. Or, to use its full name, the ‘Saudi International powered by SBIA’, held at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in the King Abdullah Economic City.
Now, you only need to have a passing interest in the news to know that Saudi Arabia ain’t all that nice a place. In October, journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi-born US citizen and journalist, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. I don’t need to tell you it was quite a gruesome murder.
So when, a handful of weeks later, the Saudi International was announced as part of the 2019 European Tour schedule, there were a few raised eyebrows.
Those eyebrows found the middle of the head when the field was confirmed and consisted of four of the world’s top 5 and eight major winners, including Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson.
But don’t worry about promoting a country with a diabolical human rights record when there’s a $3 million appearance fee to be had.
(Apropos, I give Paul Casey a lot of stick – he brings it on himself – but at least he had the stones to miss out this week despite the huge payday offer.)
So Rose trotted out the usual “I’m a golfer, not a politician” line, while DeChambeau went full throw-up-in-your-mouth: “What the European Tour is doing for the game of golf is beyond my expectations, beyond everyone’s expectations. They’re growing the game internationally, especially in a place like Saudi Arabia. It’s fantastic to see the world opening up a bit to them, and them showing us that [it’s] a place that’s just as beautiful as the rest of the world. I think it’s amazing what Saudi Arabia is doing and what the European Tour is doing.”
Johnson went even deeper: “It’s an honour to be part of Saudi Arabia’s golf journey from the onset,” he said, definitely not reading from a piece of paper.
But the press were having not of it and pushed him on the issue.
“It’s my job to play golf. Unfortunately, it’s in a part of the world where most people don’t agree with what happened, and I definitely don’t support anything like that.”
Phew! Dustin Johnson doesn’t support murder! Thank goodness for that.
Look, I’m not getting on my high horse about it, and it’s not like every country is perfect. The United States is run by a regime currently separating childen from their parents on the Mexican border – among other diabolical things – yet we’ll all be watching the PGA Tour week in, week out. Saudi Arabia just happens to be a piece of crap on the bottom of a pile of crap.
Whataboutery? Sure. But, given the amount of bad press this tournament is getting for the country in which it is being held, you’d think the European Tour would be a bit more self aware and perhaps deciding against conducting social experiments and photo shoots with players pointing out where Saudi Arabia is on a map.
A few of them got it wrong, but that’s fair enough – they’re not sending them weaponry on a regular basis, so why would they need to know?
But still, Dustin Johnson doesn’t support murder, so we’ve got that to take away with us this week.
Now something nice
This was nice, though. Despite what you think of the regime, there are still, you know, actual normal humans living there…
— Performance54 (@performance_54) January 31, 2019
And if you’ve seen this, it’s always worth watching again. If you haven’t, enjoy…
"Amy … you're our hero."
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 30, 2019
This really needs nothing to be said about it, other than Amy, we bloody love you. And what a top bloke Gary Woodland is.
Incidentally, making par at Scottsdale’s 16th? Good going. None of us are as confident.
That’s enough from me. Here are some bits and bobs by my fellow NCG writers that you should definitely read…
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Could the golf ball be rolled back for everyone?