FILE – Golf star Rory McIlroy. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Rory McIlroy, who is back at the Dubai Desert Classic for the first time since 2018, said on Wednesday that the European Tour should allow players to compete in Saudi Arabia next week.

The Saudi international has ceased to be part of the DP World Tour, formerly called the European Tour, and is now part of the Asian Tour.

Both the PGA Tour and the European Tour have threatened not to release their members for the $5m (4.43m) event due to Saudi Golf’s plans to launch a rival Premier Golf League .

“I’ve always thought rival golf tours are just going to make those tours better. I think competition is a good thing and businesses need competition to keep things going and moving forward,” said McIlroy, who is the Chairman of the 16-member Players’ Advisory Council on the PGA Tour.

“If the guys are going to Arabia and they are going to earn 10% of their annual income just by going and playing, then stopping them from doing that, punishing them, it creates resentment for the players and it creates a problem between the players. Towers.

“Look, everyone knows this is tricky. But I certainly don’t blame anyone for going out there and doing it. In the end, it is our job and our livelihood. If someone comes to offer you that kind of money, it’s hard to say no.

When asked if the reactions from the PGA and the European Tour had created a division with the players, McIlroy replied: “I think the best course of action for the Tours is to focus on what you do.”

The Saudi event has drawn criticism for ‘sportswashing’ funded by the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), with activists saying it is designed to distract from the country’s human rights record.

McIlroy said there was no point in figuring out where the money came from.

“You look at so many companies that we use, like if you’ve used Uber, they’re funded by the PIF,” he said.

“It’s hard to go anywhere and not have something or someone involved that people won’t be okay with. Maybe some people disagree with where the money is coming from, but they’re involved, a lot of companies that we use, a lot of products that we use.

“If you try to be moralistic and principled, you won’t be able to live life at the end of the day. It’s not black and white. There are a lot of gray areas, and I’ve certainly thought about that and struggled with it.

“If you try to take that tough stance, eventually you won’t be able to do what you want.”

McIlroy back to the scene of his first victory

Focusing on this week’s event, McIlroy said he was delighted to return to a tournament where he claimed his first professional victory in 2009.

“It was one of the first events I took part in on the European Tour in 2006, I think when I was 16. The course hasn’t changed much over the years,” he said. he said, “The greens seem to get smaller and smaller as we come back.”

Meanwhile, defending champion Paul Casey of England wants to ensure he retains a Tour title for the first time in his career.

“There aren’t many times when you’re defending champion. Feels shiny. For me it was an emotional win last year, a big win,” the 44-year-old said.

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