Don’t blame Saudis for Ryder Cup threat

Don’t blame Saudis for Ryder Cup threat – it’s Europe’s fault, says Paul Casey – Shutterstock

Paul Casey has claimed that the Saudi rebel circuit is already “having a positive effect” on the Kingdom’s human rights record as the Englishman explained why he joined up to play on the LIV Golf Series.

Casey, 45, will make his LIV debut here at Trump National after receiving more than £20million as a signing-on fee. When asked if he would “speak to the issues of gay people being subjected to capital punishment, and women’s rights obviously being well behind men’s rights”, the Englishman gave an impassioned response.

“I’ve been to the Kingdom a couple of times, and I’ve seen change happening there so I can confidently say that change is happening and that what we do is having a positive effect,” Casey said.

“I played with a young girl in the pro-am at the Saudi Invitational earlier this year, 17 years old. I played with another lady who’s a human rights lawyer. They were brilliant company, entertaining, and that young girl spoke of how things have changed and that just in the last couple of years since she took up the game of golf, how things have radically changed for her and her family and that that opportunity would ‘t have been there more than a couple of years ago.

“She was excited because she was going to be a scrutineer at the Formula One race later that year, and she just said stuff is changing. She’s looking forward to driving.

“Look, it’s a case of it’s not where you’re at, it’s where you’re going. There’s many places on the planet that I’ve been to, that I’ve been paid to go to, which I’m not sure I can say the same thing in terms of their trajectory. But I can honestly look you in the eye and say that I see a trajectory, a positive trajectory in the Kingdom. And I hope it continues.”

Casey’s comments will clearly not chime well with Amnesty International, the world’s leading human rights organization, that points to the fact that as recently as March, 81 people were executed in Saudi Arabia in a single day. “Far from trying to ‘move on’, the Saudi authorities have attempted to sweep their crimes under the carpet, avoiding justice and accountability at every turn,” Amnesty said in a statement.

“The regime’s human rights record is an abomination – from its murder of [journalist Jamal] Khashoggi to recent mass executions and the situation for LGBTI+ people, which continues to be dire. The LIV Golf Invitational Series is yet one more event in a series of sportswashing exercises that the Saudi authorities are using to clean its blood-soaked image.”

When pressed on gay rights, Casey replied: “It’s not a subject I know enough about to speak about”.

Casey will almost certainly receive an indefinite suspension from the PGA Tour when the first ball is in the air here on Friday. But the situation with the DP World Tour is far more complex with a case in the process of going through the legal system following Ian Poulter’s winning an injunction to overturn a ban to play in the Scottish Open earlier this month.

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Last week, Henrik Stenson – another LIV first-timer making his debut this week – was stripped of the European captaincy for next year’s match in Rome after joining the Greg Norman enterprise. Stenson, 46, put his name to a contract with Ryder Cup Europe that expressly forbade him to link up with a rival Tour or series, but when his 127-day reign came to a hasty end he still described himself as “hugely disappointed” not to be allowed to continue in the role.

Europe's Swedish golfer Henrick Stenson, Europe's English golfer Ian Poulter, Europe's English golfer Tommy Fleetwood and Europe's English golfer Paul Casey - AFP

Europe’s Swedish golfer Henrick Stenson, Europe’s English golfer Ian Poulter, Europe’s English golfer Tommy Fleetwood and Europe’s English golfer Paul Casey – AFP

Casey did not address Stenson’s dramatic demotion, but plainly believes the fault lies in Wentworth. “It would be a massive shame if the Ryder Cup was a casualty of this,” he said. “Players are making their decisions, obviously, but the players are not trying to damage the game. We leave this to those in charge of the Tour. In this case, this is left with Mr [Keith] pelley [the DP World Tour chief executive] and mr [Guy] Kinnings [the Ryder Cup director]. I could actually ask them some questions. We could ask Mr. Kinnings why the relationship deteriorated between the European Tour and Saudi Golf. We’ve got a lot of questions, but right now they all seem to be coming our way, not his way.

“I was aware of the ramifications of my decision. The rules and decisions that are going to be put in place are out of my hands. I would still love to be a part of that, but if I’m not, then I guess there’s nothing I can do. To know that there’s a possibility that a lot of us are going to miss out on that, I’m not sure what to tell you yet because we don’t know. Right now we’re all in limbo, which is a bit frustrating.”

Casey actually boycotted the inaugural Saudi International, staged on the DP World Tour – then the European Tour – in 2019 saying that as a Unicef ​​ambassador, “I would be a hypocrite if I was paid to play in Saudi”. However, the following year, the world No 31 relented and justified his U-Turn by revealing his discussion with Unicef, dialogue he repeated here.

“While I still had that relationship [with Unicef] they reminded me that it’s about inclusion, and by not engaging and not participating and not traveling to countries, you harden positions… you have to be inclusive. They actually encouraged me to go. They operate there.”

Casey, a father-of-two, is adamant his decision to defect has not been solely commercial, but based on a myriad of factors, including the opportunity to play less and see more of his family. He denied that he and the other LIV rebels are doing anything to threaten the game.

“None of us are intending to damage golf or damage the Tour. I’m a guy who’s sat on the European Player Committee for many years, I’ve sat on the[PGATourPlayerAdvisoryCouncilformanyyearsInfactIretiredandthentheyaskedmetocomebackbecauseofmyinput”hesaid[PGATourPlayerAdvisoryCouncilformanyyearsInfactIretiredandthentheyaskedmetocomebackbecauseofmyinput”hesaid

“I know the fabric of this game pretty well on the inside, on the Tour level. At no time have I ever tried to damage the Tour in the decision that I’ve made. If it’s damaged, I think the questions have to be asked somewhere else.”

Casey was last seen at the Open Championship two weeks ago when he broke down in tears over his father, Terry, being in intensive care after complications which arose in a triple-heart bypass. However, Casey gave a positive prognosis after visiting him last week in a hospital in West London.

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