Tiger Turns Down Largest-Ever Appearance Fee

Tiger Woods is no stranger to appearance fees, usually accepting upwards of $2 million to show up and play around the world, but a $3.2 million offer to play in the Saudi International, according to a report from The Telegraph.

“Tiger Woods has turned down his biggest ever potential overseas pay cheque to play in the European Tour’s inaugural event in Saudi Arabia next year, amid the international outcry over the recent murder of a journalist,” The Telegraph’s James Corrigan wrote.

“In the past, Woods has traveled to such countries as China and the United Arab Emirates. Yet it is understood he deemed Saudi Arabia to be an excursion too far – even for at least £2.5m – an amount that apparently dwarfs anything he has received before for an official overseas tournament.”

Woods was believed to have been approached following his stellar play earlier this year at the Open and PGA Championships. With Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Paul Casey already committed to the third event of the European Tour’s 2019 season, Woods was offered the richest prize of all. The full purse for the event is $3.5 million.

The Saudi government is believed to be attempting to use sports as a way to brighten their image after the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabia Embassy in Istanbul. Tennis star Roger Federer turned down a $1 million appearance fee for a tennis exhibition, which is still expected to feature Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. 

While Woods’ refusal to turn up in Saudi Arabia in January was influenced by politics, scheduling or a concern for his health in unknown, Corrigan wrote that Woods and his team would be “sidestepping the inevitable backlash” that would come with the event.

For the European Tour’s part, chief executive Keith Pelley made clear in no uncertain terms that while the Tour is still committed to playing the event the last week of January, they are keeping a close eye on the country.

“I’ll be very, very clear: Saudi International is on our schedule and we’ll continue to monitor just like we would do with every other country,” he said. “We have heard some of the criticism of the region. Obviously freedom of speech is far more available now based on social media. We’ve listened and we will continue to monitor the situation.”