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McIIroy joins Woods in skipping Saudi International tournament

World number two golfer Rory McIlroy has ruled out taking part in next month’s European Tour event in Saudi Arabia, despite being offered a large appearance fee.

This follows a similar decision by US golfer Tiger Woods, who revealed last week that he turned down a $3m (€2.7m) appearance fee to play at the Saudi International tournament, which boasts a $3.5m purse and is offering seven-figure appearance fees for several players.

McIlroy told the Golf Channel yesterday: “It’s just not something that would excite me”. He did not deny reports that he had been offered a $2.5m fee to join world number one Brooks Koepka, as well as Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson at the tournament, which takes place from January 30 to February 2, 2020.

The tournament, which is sponsored by the Saudi government, has become a lightning rod for criticism of the nation’s human rights record and its alleged involvement this year in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the country’s consulate in Istanbul.

McIlroy said: “100 per cent, there’s a morality to it as well…You could say that about so many countries, not just Saudi Arabia, but a lot of countries that we play in that there’s a reason not to go, but for me, I just don’t want to go.”

He said that his tournament appearances in the early half of 2020 would be confined to PGA Tour events, saying: “I think the atmosphere looks better at the events on the west coast (of America) and I’d much rather play in front of big golf fans and play in a tournament that really excites me.”