Rory McIlroy defends players refusing to play in Saudi Arabia

Image copyright SSPL Image caption Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth were among several players who declined the invitation to play in the Saudi event. Rory McIlroy has defended his fellow golfers who have not…

Rory McIlroy defends players refusing to play in Saudi Arabia

Image copyright SSPL Image caption Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth were among several players who declined the invitation to play in the Saudi event.

Rory McIlroy has defended his fellow golfers who have not played in the Saudi Arabia event, insisting it is their right to do so.

American Jason Day, Paul Casey, Jason Dufner and Paul McGinley have all decided not to participate, citing concerns over its religious sensitivities.

“Ultimately, I believe I’ll see it in my career not to play,” said McIlroy.

The 22-year-old world number four added he wanted to show solidarity with fellow athletes who had refused to perform in Israel during the country’s national sporting day, or “Fete de Sports”.

McIlroy was speaking to reporters at the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta.

The player has played the two-round tournament in each of the past two years but says this year’s tournament, which was due to take place this week, would prove too problematic for him given that his latest divorce was a topic of media scrutiny.

“It’s very tough, but it is the right thing to do,” McIlroy added.

“When your girlfriend gets a divorce, it’s in the press, all the time and it seems only right that you should show a little solidarity with her and not be involved with some other situation that doesn’t have a big bearing on the only thing you really do.”

McIlroy and world number one Dustin Johnson have both opted not to attend this week’s Masters title defence after the tournament was scheduled to take place in April 2018 in Augusta, Georgia, which is a Muslim majority area.

Johnson withdrew following a request from US President Donald Trump to carry out the event during the Jewish holy month of Ramadan, which begins on Sunday, 6 May.

Media playback is not supported on this device Rory McIlroy on his divorce

There was another slight to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia earlier this week, when it was announced tennis stars Milos Raonic and Nick Kyrgios would no longer compete in the 2022 Open Championship.

British number one Andy Murray and world number two Roger Federer will represent the USA in next year’s tournament.

The Royal & Ancient Golf Club, which runs the tournament, say they “regret that not all golfers have accepted” their invitation to play in the event.

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