European Tour in Saudi Arabia: Eddie Pepperell defends participation

Golfer Eddie Pepperell in action
Pepperell finished in a tie for 38th at last week's Dubai Desert Classic

England's Eddie Pepperell has defended his decision to play in this week's Saudi International event.

The tournament has attracted a top-class field despite scrutiny over the country's human rights record.

Journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder in Saudi Arabia's consulate in Turkey has placed further attention on the issue.

"It clearly is true that Saudi Arabia's human rights record is questionable at best, and appalling to anyone in the West," Pepperell, 28, said in a blog.

"But should that mean we boycott competing?

"That probably depends who you are. I can really only speak for myself, and plus, remember I'm not being paid to be here.

"The problem with taking a moral approach to us playing in Saudi Arabia this week is that it would lay bare many contradictions of the past.

"Like, for example, why do we play in China? Or Qatar? Or Turkey?

"Depending on your time scale, you could argue that every country on earth has at some point exemplified the worst that human beings have to offer."

Pepperell won his maiden European Tour title in Qatar last year and is the world number 39.

But while four of the world's top five players are playing at the £2.6m event, European Ryder Cup star Paul Casey is staying away because of human rights violations, as is fellow Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick.

Tiger Woods, meanwhile, turned down a reported $2m appearance fee as well as a yacht.

World number one Justin Rose defended his participation by saying: "I'm not a politician, I'm a pro golfer."

Pepperell accepts the effect not playing in the event would have on his season played a part in him accepting his place in the field.

"For me, if I didn't play, I sacrifice the opportunity to play against the best in the world," added the Oxfordshire player.

"I miss a chance to improve my world ranking also, which does hold some importance for me, since if I fall out of the top 50 before April I won't be eligible for a PGA Tour event I have scheduled to play.

"And that means losing flights etc and having to pay for new ones, which you might say is no problem because I've earned a lot of money lately, though resentment isn't good for anybody.

"This week throws up a not-new conundrum for us then; that competition supersedes morality. If I don't show up, the field doesn't reduce a spot, somebody takes it. With over seven billion people in the world, our futures might give us all an opportunity to choose between morality and survival.

"This isn't to say morality isn't important and should never be acted upon, but it is to say that there's a reality to the world that while we might all dislike, still exists.

"On top of all of this, maybe, just maybe, the regime out here really do want to change. Maybe they've recognised the perilous state of their own affairs and in particular their reliance on a fossil fuel that won't be here forever.

"It might be true that they want to liberalise their kingdom so that they can be competitive themselves in the future. Why should we Westerners not accept this, if it is true? After all, aren't we the true purveyors of forgiveness?"

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