Shane Lowry defends decision to play controversial Saudi International: ‘I’m not a politician’

By Adam Woodard

Everyone has an opinion on the upcoming Saudi International. Shane Lowry has made his stance clear: he’s a golfer, not a politician.

Speaking with media ahead of the Feb. 3-6 event at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City – which has been heavily criticized since its debut in 2019 as a way for the Saudi Arabian government to “sportswash” its controversial human rights record – the 2019 Open champion laid out his reasons for playing the tournament, from his past experiences to the world ranking points up for grabs.

“Look, obviously there’s no hiding from the people writing about this tournament or what they’re saying about us going to play, but at the end of the day for me, I’m not a politician, I’m a professional golfer,” said Lowry. “The top players are looked after going there, and that’s great, but top players have got looked after all over the world over the last number of years, whether it be whatever country they go to.

“But I’m happy to go there. I’m happy to earn my living going there and going and playing good golf and hopefully win a tournament,” he continued. “I think for me as a golfer, I’m not a politician, I’ll let everyone else take care of that, and I’ll go and do my job.”

OPINION: Let golf’s catch-all cliché ‘grow the game’ die of shame at the Saudi International

Last week the Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, was announced as the tournament’s new title sponsor. The fund’s chairman is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the son of Saudi Arabia’s king. In its first year as part of the Asian Tour schedule, the 2022 Saudi International features the strongest field in the history of the tour. In 2021 the Saudis made a $100 million investment in the Asian Tour.

Last month Golfweek reported that the PGA Tour had granted permission for 30 of its members to play the Saudi International, but it came with a catch:

Any player who has competed in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am event at least once in the past five years must commit to play at least once in the next two years (2023 and 2024). Players who have not competed at Pebble Beach in the last five years will need to do so twice in the three years until 2025. A source familiar with the names of the 30 players who applied for waivers told Golfweek that 19 of them will have to commit to one appearance at the AT&T, while the other 11 will be required to play twice.

“I would have been very disappointed if I didn’t get the release,” added Lowry. “I wasn’t surprised that we all did. I think it was something that they had to do. For years, as long as I’ve been not even playing golf but watching golf, players, top world-class players have been going around playing on the Asian Tour and doing stuff like that, so I don’t think this is any different.”


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