Former Open champion Shane Lowry is happy to honor his contract to compete at the Saudi International, despite the ongoing controversy surrounding the £3.6million event.
The inaugural tournament in 2019 attracted a star-studded field, despite the country’s human rights record focusing more on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey.
After three years as part of the European Tour, the tournament is now the flagship event on the Asian Tour, also launching 10 new events led by Greg Norman and backed by US$200 million from the Saudi government’s private investment fund. Is.
That means players are required to release from the PGA Tour and DP World Tour (formerly the European Tour) to compete in this year’s event from February 3-6, the same week as the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-April in California. M and Ras al. Khaimah Championship in UAE.
The PGA Tour said in July that it would not release players to play in “unrestricted events”, but announced in December that they had been granted separate commitments to play Pebble Beach events in future years. .
“I left that all up to my agent, but I’m pretty sure I’ll have to take a break from both tours to play,” Lowry said in a conference call to promote the Saudi international.
“I didn’t think it was a big issue for me, to be honest, because I have played here for the last two years and I have played on the Asian Tour in the past as well. I would have been very disappointed if I did. ‘The release didn’t happen. I’m not surprised that we all did. I think it was something they had to do.’
“Over the years top world-class players have been playing on the Asian tour and doing things like that, so I don’t think it’s any different.”
The attendance fee for players to compete in Saudi Arabia is understood to be as high as seven points for the biggest names in the sport, with Lowry being among those signed to multi-year contracts.
“I signed a three-year deal with the guys after[winning]the Open in 2019,” Lowry said.
“Obviously there are different reasons for this, but when it was part of the European tour, there was no point in playing those three events there (in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Saudi Arabia) and then coming back to the US.
“Obviously it’s no longer a European Tour event, it’s an Asian Tour event, but I’ve got a contract to play and I see no reason why I’m not given my release or allowed to go and play.” .
“I’m glad I’m able to go and play. I’ve had great experiences there and I look forward to going back.”
Asked about Saudi Arabia’s continued efforts to use events like “Sportswash”, Lowry said: “Look, there’s clearly no hiding from people writing about this tournament or they What about us, who is going to play us, but in the end for me I’m not a politician, I’m a professional golfer.
“I make a living for myself and my family and try and take care of them, and that’s a part of that.
“Top players are seen after they go there, and that’s great, but top players have been seen all over the world over the years, no matter what country they go to.
“But I’m happy to be there. I’m happy to go there and make a living playing good golf and hopefully win a tournament.”
Defending champions Dustin Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Bryson DeChambeau are among those set to compete next month at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in Jeddah.