Meghan MacLaren is a rare breed of golfer – which is why she won't be playing in Saudi Arabia next month
Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson will be paid more than $1.5 million before they’ve even hit a ball in Saudi Arabia this week.
Last year the likes of Sergio Garcia, who was famously disqualified for his petulant behaviour, had been paid around $500,000 for his appearance fee, a figure he got to keep on the understanding that he will be back this year.
The Ladies European Tour will visit Saudi in March in a tournament that might not have any appearance funds but does boast a relatively huge pot of $900,000 – more than four times the size of many weeks on the LET schedule and the sixth biggest week, money-wise, on the calendar. The men this week will play for, officially, $3.5 million.
Meghan MacLaren, though, won’t be playing after she withdrew with concerns over the Kingdom and its human rights record.
The 25-year-old explained her reasons having initially not wanted to comment as she didn’t want to be “lecturing other players”.
“I’ve decided not to play based on what I think sport is being used to do in Saudi Arabia,” MacLaren said in an interview with the Telegraph. “It’s far more complicated than any one individual, so it’s a personal decision and not something I would push onto anyone else.
“But based on the research of organisations like Amnesty International, I couldn’t be comfortable being part of that process.
“We take for granted a lot of the choices and freedom we have available to us but I try to make my decisions based on who I am as a person, not just a golfer. It’s obviously a huge tournament for us but this to me is about more than golf. I wish sport as a whole looked through a lens deeper than what benefits itself.”
So is it the right decision?
MacLaren is part of a rare breed of sportsperson who actually speaks her mind. As much as we crave a bit more colour and personality in the game we also want a bit more honesty and sincerity, something MacLaren delivers in spades through her excellent blog.
You’ll see bundles of headlines of ‘growing the game’ this week, three words which are quickly growing into the most nauseating in sport.
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When asked in his press conference what made him particularly want to come back for a second time, the defending champion Dustin Johnson replied: “Last year I met a friend that lived here and he took us out on a scuba dive, and then so that was something I was looking forward to doing again this year. So we went out this morning and did another dive, which was really nice. It’s beautiful, the Red Sea.”
Way to go, DJ.
MacLaren’s cut from a very different cloth from those who will be paid handsomely to show their faces this week. Likewise she’s got more than enough self-awareness not to point the finger at her peers who are playing for their livelihoods or dive into the monumental argument of where to draw the line in terms of other events around the world.
But she’s spoken, this time with her feet, and there’s a hell of a lot to be said for that.