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Rory McIlroy has made his stance on the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series clear over recent months. However, he has largely done so in the context of his support for the PGA Tour and the calibre of players signed up to the Series. Now, though, he has offered his opinion on the more political nature of the controversy.
Speaking before the US Open, which gets underway at The Country Club later this week, McIlroy said that while contentious, it doesn't mean all Saudi Arabians deserve criticism. He said: “I think everything that's happening with this tour, it legitimatises their place in the world, and I'm not saying - I'm sure not every Saudi Arabian is a bad person. We're talking about this in such a generalized way. I've spent a lot of time in the Middle East, and the vast majority of people that I've met there are very, very nice people, but there's bad people everywhere. The bad people that came from that part of the world did some absolutely horrendous things.”
The controversial nature of the Saudi involvement was brought into even sharper focus earlier this week, when it emerged that the families of 9/11 victims had sent a letter to the US LIV Golf Invitational Series players condemning their decision to sign up, and McIlroy said he has every sympathy for the victims.
“Of course, I understand where these families are coming from, and in this day and age everything is just so intertwined, and it's hard to separate sport from politics from dirty money from clean money. It's a very convoluted world right now. I certainly empathise with those families, and I can't imagine - I have friends that have lost people in 9/11, and it's a really tragic thing. I empathise with those families, and I certainly understand their concerns and frustrations with it all.”
One of the concerns over the Saudi involvement is the allegation of sportswashing, but McIlroy doesn’t think the players should be held responsible for that. He said: “I'm not sure if they're totally - I don't think they're complicit in it. In a way I think - look, they all have the choice to play where they want to play, and they've made their decision. My dad said to me a long time ago, once you make your bed, you lie in it, and they've made their bed. That's their decision, and they have to live with that.”
Video: Things You Didn't Know About Rory McIlroy
Mike has 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on sports such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the sport’s most newsworthy stories. Originally from East Yorkshire, Mike now resides in Canada, where the nearest course is less than a mile from his home. It’s there where he remains confident that, one of these days, he’ll play the 17th without finding the water. Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.
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