by Ronan MacNamara
Shane Lowry by Golffile
Shane Lowry is happy to play in next month’s Saudi International despite the ongoing controversy and criticism surrounding the flagship Asian Tour event.
Saudi Arabia has a retched human rights record and Lowry intends on honouring the contract he signed after winning the Open Championship in 2019 to appear in the event.
The tournament which was won by Graeme McDowell in 2020 is part of ten new Asian Tour events spearheaded by Australia’s Greg Norman with heavy financial backing (€176 million) from the Saudi government’s Private Investment fund.
Lowry and co were recently granted releases from the PGA Tour and DP World Tour to tee it up from February 3-6th rather than play in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am or the Ras al Khaimah Championship.
The Clara native who is one of the big names who signed multi-year contracts to play was part of a conference call promoting the event and has no issue playing with appearance figures understood to be in the region of seven figures.
“I signed a deal after [winning] The Open in 2019, a three-year deal with the guys to go play,” said Lowry who is without a worldwide win since lifting the Claret Jug in Portrush.
“I left all that to my agent, but I’m pretty sure I had to get a release from both tours to go play.
“I didn’t think it was a big issue for me, to be honest, because I’ve played here the last two years and I’ve played on the Asian Tour in the past. I would have been very disappointed if I didn’t get the release. I wasn’t surprised that we all did. I think it was something that they had to do.
“For years 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,” he added.
While players have faced criticism from fans and media alike for committing to the event Lowry feels that the tournament makes sense given his DP World Tour schedule – where he will play in the ABU Dhabi HSBC Championship and the Dubai Desert Classic - and admitted he had enjoyed his recent experiences playing in the event.
“Obviously there’s a few different reasons why, but when it was part of the European Tour it just made sense to play those three events over there [in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Saudi Arabia] and then come back to America.
“Obviously it’s not a European Tour event now, it’s an Asian Tour event, but I’ve got a contract to play and I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t have been given my release or wouldn’t be allowed to go and play.
“I’m happy that I’m able to go and play. I’ve had very pleasant experiences over there and I’m looking forward to going back.”
When questioned about Saudi Arabia’s sports washing attempts Lowry outlined that he was focused on his job as a professional golfer rather than allowing politics to influence his judgement.
“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.
“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.”
The 34-year-old will be joined by defending champion Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood, Lee Westwood, Bryson DeChambeau and Paul Casey who are just some of the names who have committed to what will be a world class field at Royal Greens Golf Club in Jeddah.