‘Nothing wrong’ with Saudi investment in golf

ENGLISH GOLFER PAUL Casey on Wednesday defended Saudi Arabia’s $200million injection to revive the Asian Tour, following criticism of the deal over the oil-rich kingdom’s human rights record man.

Speaking ahead of this week’s SMBC Singapore Open, where he finished tied for second in 2019, Casey praised the funding from LIV Golf Investments, which is majority-owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

“Listen, investment is investment. Every tour requires an investment, plain and simple,” said Casey, currently world number 27.

“The revenue is incredible on the PGA Tour, and I’m a part of the PGA Tour. I’m proud of that, but I’m also excited about the investments in the other tours around the world, so that’s a good thing,” he added.

Casey said fellow players were optimistic about the cash injection.

” It’s a big problem. The fact that they have more events and more money to play. Nothing wrong with that,” said Casey, who is also committed to playing the Saudi international who starts in two weeks.

South Korean Kim Joo-hyung, who leads the Asia Tour Order of Merit, said he was looking forward to playing in Saudi Arabia.

“It will be a very good experience for many players, including myself. I have never been to Saudi Arabia,” the 19-year-old said.

The SMBC Singapore Open is the season-ending event on the 2020-21 Asian Tour schedule.

The Saudi international will kick off the 2022 program when he kicks off at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club on February 3.

Saudi Arabia is increasingly hosting major sporting events, including a Formula 1 Grand Prix, but critics say the country is seeking to “sports wash away” its abysmal human rights record.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman says he has overseen a campaign for reform since his appointment by his father, King Salman, in 2017, but authorities continue to crack down on dissenters and would-be opponents, ranging from preachers to women’s rights activists.

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The country was the subject of international condemnation following the murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

Speaking last week on his decision to play at the Saudi International, Irishman Shane Lowry said: “Listen, obviously there’s nothing to hide from people who write about this tournament or what they say about the fact that we’re going to play, but at the end of the day for me, I’m not a politician, I’m a professional golfer.

“I make a living for myself and my family and try to take care of that, and that’s just part of it, and I have to go.”

– ©AFP 2022

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