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LIV commit Paul Casey back in 2019: 'Sport is very political'

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LIV Golf added to its stable of players on Saturday, though the league’s newest announcement is noteworthy in that it is a player who once shunned playing in Saudi Arabia because of concerns with the country’s human-rights record.

Paul Casey, the 44-year-old Englishman who hasn’t competed since March because of injury, is expected to join the Saudi-backed circuit for the third event of its season July 29-31 at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey.

“Here we are,” Casey said during LIV’s live stream of its event in Portland, Oregon. “Big news.”

Big news indeed, mostly considering Casey declined a fee to appear in the 2019 Saudi International on the DP World Tour. At the time, Casey cited his relationship with UNICEF, an organization that provides humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide, as his reason for not playing.

“Signing a deal and being paid to be down there ... I would be a hypocrite if I did that,” Casey said then. “Anybody who says sport isn't political, that's rubbish. Sport is very political. I'm glad I took a stance, more so if it highlights the issues within the region.”

However, two years later, Casey changed tune, committing to and competing in the 2021 Saudi International. He also released a statement after making his decision, saying, “I wasn’t comfortable going in the past, but I have always been open-minded and willing to learn. I believe sport has the power to affect change. I’ve listened to the Saudi’s commitment to this and their vision for the future. They have successfully hosted two professional ladies tournaments, which shows that Golf Saudi have big plans not only for professional golf, but more so for grassroots and the next generation.”

Casey’s last tournament start was the WGC-Dell Match Play in mid-March. He has since slipped to No. 26 in the Official World Golf Ranking as he continues to recover from a back injury.

He said Saturday that he plans to play in the JP McManus Pro-Am on Monday-Tuesday in Ireland and hoped to be healthy enough to tee it up in the Open Championship.

“And then you will see me at Bedminster,” he added.