By Frank Pingue
Former British Open champion Shane Lowry said on Tuesday he has no qualms about playing next month in Saudi Arabia, which has come under international scrutiny for its human rights record, and that he is just trying to make a living.
The Irishman is among a stacked field of confirmed golfers for the Saudi International, which is sponsored by the Saudi public investment fund and carries lucrative appearance fees for some, leading many to call it nothing more than a cash grab.
"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," Lowry told a virtual media session.
"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."
The Feb. 3-6 Saudi International, which is running opposite of the PGA Tour's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, was part of the European Tour the last three years but is now a flagship event on the Asian Tour.
Because of that, players had to seek releases from the PGA Tour and DP World Tour, formerly the European Tour, in order to compete next month at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club.
A number of players have made multi-year commitments to appear in the event, including Lowry who agreed to a three-year contract to play in the Saudi International after winning the 2019 British Open at Royal Portrush.
"Yeah, 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 or I doubt 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," said Lowry.
"Like I said, I've had very pleasant experiences over there, and I'm looking forward to going back."
The tournament has invited controversy since its inception in 2019 with some calling it the Saudi Arabian government's way to "sportswash" a controversial human rights record but for Lowry, that is not his business.
"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," said Lowry.
"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."