The European Tour makes its debut in Saudi Arabia this week in the final event of its desert swing.
However, the fact the tournament is taking place at all, and has managed to lock down a number of high-profile players, has divided the golfing world.
That’s due to a number of factors, including the country’s human rights record as well as the murder of journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, last year.
First, let’s take a look at some of those who will be absent, beginning with the biggest name of them all…
The cat has played all over the globe throughout his illustrious career, but he could not be convinced that Saudi Arabia was right for him.
Woods was reportedly offered more than £2.5 million as an appearance fee, and could also have taken home a good portion of the $3.5million prize pot.
His reasoning behind turning down the invite have not been discussed by the man himself – perhaps it was to do with politics or morals, or simply due to him not wanting to jeopardise his health again at a crucial point in his golfing life.
As one of the stars 2018 Ryder Cup, Casey was originally expected to take part in the tournament.
However, in a recent Instagram post, he declared himself out of the event and it is believed this is largely due to those human rights issues and his links to the charity UNICEF.
View this post on Instagram
As I continue to face questions about my participation I feel it is important to clarify that I will not be playing in next weeks Saudi International event. Plus contrary to reports I had also never signed a contract to play. I hope this addresses any confusion. Thank you. . . . . #unicefgoodwillambasador #unicef @unicefJan 25, 2019 at 7:02am PST
The American had his say in an NBC Golf debate.
He is firmly against the idea of the event going ahead and also believes players should not be participating.
There was one quote that really stuck out.
He said the players would be “ventriloquists for an abhorrent regime” by appearing.
Strong words indeed.
What do those playing think?
The world number one hit back after Chamblee’s comments, saying “I’m not a politician, I’m a pro golfer.”
After winning at Torrey, world No. 1 Justin Rose will head straight to Saudi Arabia. On playing in next week's controversial @EuropeanTour event: "I'm not a politician, I'm a pro golfer."
— Will Gray (@WillGrayGC) January 28, 2019
A valid point, but many still think players are making a political statement whether they intend to or not.
The Big Easy has not said too much about his decision to play but, when he did, he focused on the country’s vision for golf’s future.
He said: “I’ve spent some time getting to know a little bit about the Kingdom’s plans to accelerate golf development and I’m privileged to be a part of it.”
In typical Pepperell fashion, the Englishman posted about the event on Twitter…
I’ve seen a number of tweets saying we shouldn’t be here in Saudi Arabia. But let me remind you of this; Only last year women weren’t allowed to wear any clothes AT ALL in my house.
— Eddie Pepperell (@PepperellEddie) January 28, 2019
Of course, this is social media, so there are some who did not see the funny side of the tweet. This prompted the world number 39 to express his views in a more in-depth form on his blog.
In the post, he said:
“It clearly is true that Saudi Arabia’s human rights record is questionable at best, and appalling to anyone in the West. But should that mean we boycott competing?”
“The problem with taking a moral approach to us golfers playing in Saudi Arabia this week is that it would lay bare many contradictions of the past. Like, for example, why do we play in China? Or Qatar? Or Turkey?”
In all honesty, Pepperell poses some good points in his piece, it’s worth a look.
This tournament has truly split opinion like no other in recent years, and it will be fascinating to see how the week pans out.