Justin Rose hits back at claims top golfers are 'ventriloquists for abhorrent, reprehensible regime'
World number one Justin Rose has defended his decision to contest this week's Saudi International after a leading golf analyst accused players and the European Tour of turning a blind eye to an "abhorrent, reprehensible regime".
The tournament has attracted a star-studded field despite the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey focusing further attention on the country's regime.
Paul Casey confirmed on Friday that human rights violations were behind his decision not to compete at the Royal Greens Country Club, but four of the world's top five and the likes of Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter are due to contest the £2.6million event.
"I'm not a politician, I'm a pro golfer," Rose told a press conference following his victory in the Farmers Insurance Open. "There's other reasons to go play it.
"It's a good field, there's going to be a lot of world ranking points to play for, by all accounts it's a good golf course and it will be an experience to experience Saudi Arabia. Also it gets one of my European Tour events out of the way very, very early."
Speaking earlier on Sunday, Golf Channel analyst and former PGA Tour professional Brandel Chamblee had said: "Politically I get why you have to capitulate to Saudi Arabia and maybe from a business standpoint even, but a more definitive personal rebuke can be shown to the PR stunt of this regime by not participating, by refusing to participate, because your participation in some way enriches this regime.
"By non-participation of the athletes in general, you can in some marginal way - and I applaud Paul Casey - make a statement about human rights. Whether the European Tour knows it, whether the players know it, by participating they are a ventriloquist for this abhorrent, reprehensible regime."
European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley defended the tournament on the Golf Channel's Morning Drive programme, adding: "Like many global companies who operate in the region, we monitored the situation. Having looked at that - and having done our due diligence in terms of the safety and security - we're obviously moving forward and looking forward to this new chapter on the European Tour.
"We have an excellent relationship with the Middle East, and it's very important. We can't play anywhere in Europe this time of year. The Middle East becomes very important to us, from a climate perspective, to the ease of travel, to the quality of golf courses."