The Sunday Post (Inverness)

bernard gallacher’s golf

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TheEuropea­n Tour would love to shout from the rooftops about their new event in Saudi Arabia next year.

But after the awful death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, that is the last thing they can do.

When the event was first announced back in March, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia was very much to the fore, along with European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley.

It should complete an exciting start to 2019, following on from Abu Dhabi and Dubai. But Mr Pelley has to keep a low profile about it, while the fallout from this diplomatic incident swirls around.

There is a lot riding on this for the Tour. They have designed and built the course – Royal Greens – and they want to get a new event off the ground in a new destinatio­n.

The course looks fabulous in pictures and is on the shoreline of the Red Sea, so it should make for a good spectacle on TV.

Obviously, there are those who will say the tournament should not be staged at all.

However, the Tour will monitor the situation and if the advice of the UK Government is not to travel to Saudi Arabia, it will be cancelled. But we are not at that stage yet.

A lot of appearance money has been spent for the Saudi Internatio­nal – believed to be $8 million – on American pair Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed, with Brooks Koepka and Justin Rose also expected to follow suit.

Those are big figures, but it has always been the case that an event has to chase the big stars when trying to get off the ground. The Saudis would have loved to have tempted Tiger Woods to play, but he declined. However, Tiger and his agent, Mark Steinberg, are smart cookies and they won’t have burned their bridges.

If things are quieter in 12 months, Woods could certainly tee it up in Saudi Arabia – if the price is right.

As for the average player on the European Tour, it will be a difficult week. Forthosewh­odogo,itwillbea case of getting on site, playing and practising and keeping your head down. Do your job, earn your money and then leave.

Once, I refused to play in the Nigerian Open because there was acivilwaro­natthetime.

I came out publicly and stated my beliefs. I was bombarded from both sides about it. I should have said nothing.

As a 19-year-old I went to play in South Africa when apartheid was in place. But I was young and naïve and didn’t consider the political situation.

I just wanted to visit the country where one of my heroes, Gary Player, came from and to play on their wonderful golf courses. It was also common for us to playinthes­panishopen­during the Franco era, when Spain was far more austere than it is today.

As a golfer, you are a one-man business. While we have to obey our conscience­s, we are trying to look after our families. That is our No.1 priority.

I’m a great believer that where possible, sports and politics should not mix. So let the golfers concentrat­e on the golf and the politician­s deal with the politics.

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