Paul Casey to miss European Tour's first event in Saudi Arabia due to human rights concerns

The European Tour's decision to stage its first event in the country has come under increasing scrutiny

Tom Kershaw
Friday 25 January 2019 19:03
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Paul Casey is a Unicef ambassador
Paul Casey is a Unicef ambassador

Paul Casey has confirmed that he will not play in the European Tour’s debut event in Saudi Arabia next week on humanitarian grounds.

The decision to stage the circuit’s first event in the country has come under considerable scrutiny since the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in October, and Casey, a Unicef ambassador, has refused an invitation to the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club due to concerns over the country’s human rights.

“As I continue to face questions about my participation I feel it is important to clarify that I will not be playing in next week’s Saudi International event,” Casey said on Friday. “Plus contrary to reports I had also never signed a contract to play. I hope this addresses any confusion. Thank you.”

Casey had already aired his disquiet over the tournament’s destination last month.

“There are a lot of places in the world that I have played and continue to go, which you could question … some human rights violations that governments have committed,” he said.

“I thought I’d sit this one out.”

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley was initially gushing after closing a deal to take a debut event to the country, saying he was “very excited to be talking the first steps toward bringing professional golf to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the first time and I must thank His Royal Majesty, Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud for his vision in making this happen.”

But, in the wake of the Khashoggi murder and the country’s increasingly fractious relationship with Yemen, the event was left off the Tour's season-opening press release.

Casey enjoyed a highlight year in 2018, winning his first PGA Tour event in nine years before starring at the Ryder Cup in September. Although some players have chosen to follow his suit, a number of the sport’s biggest stars have accepted invites to the event, including US Open and PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka, Masters champion Patrick Reed and world No 1 Justin Rose.

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