Shane Lowry has no issue with teeing it up in next month’s controversial Saudi International despite criticism of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.
Hungry” to get back and compete again after taking two months off, the former Open champion (34) is one of a string of big names contracted to playing for a fat appearance fee in the former European Tour event, which is part of the Asian Tour and sponsored by the Saudi public investment fund.
”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,” said Lowry, who will first reappear in next week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on the DP World Tour.
“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 many other big names, including fellow Irishman Graeme McDowell, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson, Lowry signed a multi-year deal to appear in the event.
“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, who needed releases from both the DP World Tour and the PGA TOUR to play at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club from February 3-6 as the event clashes with tournaments on both circuits.
“Like I said, I’ve had very pleasant experiences over there, and I’m looking forward to going back.”
As for accusations of sportswashing levelled against Saudi Arabia for its human rights record, Lowry said he was happy to leave those issues to the politicians.
“I’m happy to go there,” he said. “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.”
Lowry returns to action in next week’s €8 million Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship where he will be joined at Yas Links by Rory McIlroy, Jonathan Caldwell and 2021 Ryder Cup skipper, Pádraig Harrington.
The field also features Race to Dubai champion and world No 2 Collin Morikawa, and European Ryder Cup players Viktor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton, Lee Westwood, Tommy Fleetwood, Ian Poulter and Bernd Wiesberger.
Lowry is determined to make amends for that 19-9 defeat at Whistling Straits by making qualifying for the 2023 Ryder Cup in Rome one of his big goals.
But he’s also keen to add more wins to his CV as he enters the peak of his career and is hoping to start 2022 with a win in Abu Dhabi, where he also won wire to wire in 2019, setting up a major-winning season.
“I’m really excited to get back playing, and I’ve kind of got my hunger back,” he said. “When I take a big break like that, I do get like a hunger back to go practice and go play and fall back in love with the game because it’s an easy game to fall out of love with, but then a few weeks off and you fall back in love with it and you can’t wait to get back.
“I’ve set a few goals out. I’m looking forward to the next year or two. I think hopefully I’m coming into a decent part of my career where I feel like I can make some hay and win some tournaments.”