Justin Rose among players labelled ‘ventriloquists for abhorrent regime’ for playing in Saudi Arabia after Jamal Khashoggi murder

This week’s European Tour event has come under heavy scrutiny following last October’s muder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Jack de Menezes
Monday 28 January 2019 14:31 GMT
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Justin Rose has been criticised for his planned appearance in Saudi Arabia this week
Justin Rose has been criticised for his planned appearance in Saudi Arabia this week (Getty)

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Justin Rose has defended his decision to head to Saudi Arabia this week to play in the European Tour’s Saudi International this week in the wake of the Jamal Khashoggi murder, with the world No 1 insisting he is “not a politician” after facing a public backlash.

After winning the Farmers Insurance Open on Sunday to consolidate his place at the top of the World Golf Rankings, Rose was quizzed about his decision to immediately travel to Saudi Arabia via London for this week’s controversial tournament.

A number of golfers have decided not to play due to the death of journalist Khashoggi last October, with the CIA accusing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of ordering the killing.

The European Tour has already come under heavy fire for adding the Saudi tournament to its schedule at a time when the country is facing huge scrutiny over recent incidents, and Rose faced something similar on Sunday night when he spoke to the media about the tournament.

“I'm not a politician, I'm a pro golfer,” Rose said. “There's other reasons to go play it. It's a good field, there's going to be a lot of world ranking points to play for, by all accounts it's a good golf course and it will be an experience to experience Saudi Arabia.”

That is not a position that has been adopted by everyone though. Rose’s Ryder Cup teammate Paul Casey has elected not to play in the tournament, and clarified his position on the Saudi International after reports claimed he had performed a U-turn on his entry.

“I feel it is important to clarify that I will not be playing in next week’s Saudi International,” said Casey, who is also a Unicef ambassador. “Plus, contrary to reports I had also never signed a contract to play #unicefgoodwillambasador.”

Casey was applauded for his decision by former PGA Tour pro-turned-analyst Brandel Chamblee, who said on the Golf Channel that by choosing to play in Saudi Arabia, both the players and the European Tour as a whole were being “a ventriloquist for this abhorrent, reprehensible regime”.

“I’m a big fan of the European Tour really, I think they take chances,” Chamblee said during a passionate discussion about the morality of the tournament.

“In particular I’m a fan of their media operation who I think is cutting edge – some of the most clever people in the game of golf – and by extension the fact that they have a really good media operation, to turn a blind eye to the butchering of a media member I think in some way euphemises the egregious human atrocities that not only took place with Jamal Khashoggi but that go on there all the time. It was just last year that they put two transgender women in a bag and bashed them to death and by the authority of this regime.

Former professional Brandel Chamblee has strongly criticised all players at the Saudi International
Former professional Brandel Chamblee has strongly criticised all players at the Saudi International (Getty)

“Politically I get why have to capitulate to Saudi Arabia, I get that, and maybe from a business point even, but a more definitive personal rebuke can be shown to the PR stunt of this regime – which is really just trying to hoodwink the West, that’s all they’re trying to do here – by not participating, by refusing to participate, because your participation in some way enriches this regime.

“By not participating in some marginal way – and I applaud Paul Casey – you can make a statement about human rights. Whether the European Tour knows it, and whether the players know it, by participating they are a ventriloquist for this abhorrent, reprehensible regime.”

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