By Brian Keogh
Shane Lowry. Photo by Golffile
Shane Lowry won’t be the only Ryder Cup hopeful joining defending champion Graeme McDowell in the Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club from 4 – 7 February 2021.
The Offaly man will also be joined by Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, Tyrrell Hatton, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood as a host of European stars look to get their campaign to qualify for the 2021 European Ryder Cup team off to the strongest possible start.
With World No 1 and 2020 Masters Champion Dustin Johnson and 2020 US Open Champion Bryson DeChambeau already confirmed in the field, along with American stars Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed, the strength of the field means huge ranking points will be on offer for Europe’s leading golfers.
The presence of Casey is a surprise considering his comments last year.
“It just didn’t sit well with me,” he told the Independent of his reasons for skipping the event. “I’ve not talked too much about it and I’m not sure I want to, but certainly signing a deal and being paid to be down there. I would be a hypocrite if I did that.
“Anybody who says sport isn’t political, that’s rubbish, sport is very political and we’ve seen it through the years. I’m glad I took a stance, more so if it highlighted the issues within the region, especially next door in Yemen.”
Fleetwood, a six-time winner on the European Tour and standout player in Europe’s Ryder Cup victory in Paris in 2018, is making his debut this year.
“From all I’ve heard from the lads who played there the last couple of years, the Saudi International is already established itself as one of the leading events on the European Tour both in terms of set up and facilities as well as quality of the field, which is really impressive this year.,” he said.
"Poulter, who played for the first time in the 2020 edition added: “I really enjoyed the tournament at the beginning of this year and am psyched to be returning next February. The course sets up for my game rather nicely so I was pretty frustrated to only finish in the top 20 and will certainly be aiming to finish rather higher up the leader board this year!
“It’s a fantastic Championship course with some amazing vistas and I also really like the fact we get to play a part in introducing golf to a whole new audience in a new region. With Ryder Cup qualification on the line, I am obviously looking to get my campaign off to a fast start and getting a decent finish or winning the Saudi International against such a stellar field would be massive.
“It’s been a really weird year with Covid so we are all looking forward to a fresh start in 2021 and I am hoping it is also a strong start as I keep my eyes firmly focused on qualifying for the European team at Whistling Straits.”