Shane Lowry has defended his decision to play in next month’s controversial Saudi International by stating he’s ‘not a politician, he’s a golfer’.
The 2019 Open champion was addressing the media ahead of the tournament, which will be played at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club from Feb 3-6. The event has been heavily criticised for its apparent ‘sportswashing’ of Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuse and with a star-studded field and an increased $5million prize fund (up from $3.5million in 2021), the questions of whether such a cast of players should be taking part continue to mount.
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But Lowry’s objective remains clear, with world ranking points and the opportunity to win a prestigious tournament against the best golfers in the world his only reasons for teeing it up in King Abdullah Economic City.
Lowry said: “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.
“I earn a living for myself and my family and try and take care of those, and this is just a part of that, and I need to go there – like I’ve seen a few quotes from Tommy Fleetwood recently where he said about the World Ranking points available there, there’s no doubt we’re all getting looked after going there. 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. 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.”
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There had been doubts whether many of the world’s top players would be granted releases to play in the Saudi International, which was first played in 2019 under the wing of the European Tour but switched to the Asian Tour last year.
Players were given permission to play by both the PGA and European Tour in December – with strict stipulations that they support their regular tours in future events – but there appears to be lingering disdain for the tournament following the announcement last October that the Asian Tour had signed a ten-year, $200million partnership with LIV Golf Investments, a start-up company fronted by Greg Norman that will be funded by Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
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Last week, PIF was also announced as the Saudi International’s headline sponsor, with speculation that the sovereign wealth fund and Norman’s LIV Golf Investments are pioneering a potential breakaway league.
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