Saudi Arabia: Rory McIlroy defends choice to compete in tournament

Rory McIlroy completed a three-under par 69 in the third round

Rory McIlroy was criticised by some of his fellow PGA Tour players this week after saying PGA Tour Champions events should not tour Saudi Arabia this year.

Saudi Arabia are trying to host the 2022 golfing World Cup after being given the privilege last week.

“It’s not about the team. It’s about individuals,” said US Open champion Brooks Koepka.

Northern Ireland’s McIlroy, who has not officially stated his allegiance, defended his right to go and compete in the event.

“I think I’m entitled to my opinion and if that’s not wanted, then I stand by my opinion,” he said.

Koepka praised McIlroy’s experience as a professional, but did question the course suited to him.

“I think he’s one of the best professional players ever,” said the American.

“But if I would have come to Saudi Arabia, I wouldn’t play my game and know how to play it.

“I mean, it would have been totally different and it would have been something I would have struggled with.”

Koepka’s comments came after fellow players Tom Lehman and Freddie Jacobson questioned the decision of the PGA Tour and European Tour to play in Saudi Arabia.

Lehman said the Saudi bid had been a “big mistake”, while Jacobson pointed out the “absolutely abhorrent conditions” in which female golfers are forced to live.

McIlroy was particularly affected by the scenes of rape and torture that happened to Norwegian golfer Ingrid Lindberg in Saudi Arabia in 2005.

“It made my stomach turn,” said McIlroy of Lindberg’s ordeal.

“I felt very sad for her. It just brought it home. I feel like it is something that is not something we should be talking about in any country. It is illegal and we have to take a stand and that is why I said what I said.

“I wanted to make sure everybody knew I was speaking about what I saw and what I have seen around the world.”

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said the tournament was “safe for all concerned” and “good for the game”.

McIlroy finished a creditable joint eighth in the event and said that he understood the perception of taking place in Saudi Arabia.

“It’s a conservative country,” he said. “There are a lot of restrictions and things. But we are human beings first and foremost. We’ve all got rights. It’s not like I’m going over there to give them an advantage, or anything like that.

“I’m just going over there for my own reasons. I think it’s going to be a great event and I look forward to being there.”

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