Shane Lowry defends playing controversial Saudi International: ‘I’m not a politician, I’m a golfer’

Irishman comes out fighting to reveal his desire to play in Asian Tour showpiece next month, adding: 'I am earning a living for myself and my family'

Shane Lowry
Shane Lowry faced the media alongside Ryder Cup team-mate Tyrrell Hatton
(Image credit: Getty Images)

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.

Related Star-studded field sign up for Saudi International

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.”

Related Greg Norman pioneers landmark deal with Asian Tour

Related R&A withdraws Open exemption spot for Asian Tour money list winner

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).

Related DP World Tour confirms player releases for Saudi International

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. 

Alex Narey
Alex Narey

Alex began his journalism career in regional newspapers in 2001 and moved to the Press Association four years later. He spent three years working at Dennis Publishing before first joining Golf Monthly, where he was on the staff from 2008 to 2015 as the brand's managing editor, overseeing the day-to-day running of our award-winning magazine while also contributing across various digital platforms. A specialist in news and feature content, he has interviewed many of the world's top golfers and returns to Golf Monthly after a three-year stint working on the Daily Telegraph's sports desk. His current role is diverse as he undertakes a number of duties, from managing creative solutions campaigns in both digital and print to writing long-form features for the magazine. Alex has enjoyed a life-long passion for golf and currently plays to a handicap of 13 at Tylney Park Golf Club in Hampshire.