The fourth edition of the Saudi International gets underway on Thursday at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.
Now under the umbrella of the Asian Tour, the Saudi International field features a plethora of high-end talent, headlined by three of the world’s top-10 ranked players, including two-time winner Dustin Johnson (No. 5), Xander Schauffele (No. 8), and Bryson DeChambeau (No. 9).
Those three headliners will be joined by superstars such as Phil Mickelson, Shane Lowry, Abraham Ancer, Tony Finau, Paul Casey, Joaquin Niemann, Sergio Garcia, and Patrick Reed, among others.
Tournament: PIF Saudi International
Dates: Feb. 3-6, 2022
Tour Debut: 2019
Course: Royal Greens G & CC
Where: King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Distance: Par 70, 7010 yards
Architect: David Sampson
Field 132 players
Format: 36-hole cut, 72-hole stroke
Win Share: $833,333
OWGR Pts: 50
2021 Champion: Dustin Johnson
Other Notables: Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Phil Mickelson, Abraham Ancer, Bubba Watson, Tommy Fleetwood, Paul Casey, Shane Lowry, Joaquin Niemann, Tyrrell Hatton, Cameron Smith, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood
Saudi International History
Established in 2019 as a European Tour event, it was the first tour event played in Saudi Arabia and was one of six European Tour events staged in the countries on the Arabian Peninsula. Dustin Johnson, then the world No.1, was the tournament’s inaugural winner. He followed it up with a second win in 2021.
The event has drawn criticism due to the involvement of Saudi Arabia’s government in the event, based on their record of human rights within the country and their ventures of “sportswashing”.
The tournament ceased to be a European Tour event after the 2021 edition, and later that year it was announced that the event would become the flagship event of the Asian Tour.
In January 2022, it was announced that the Saudi Public Investment Fund had become the new title sponsor of the event.
How to Follow the PIF Saudi International
TELEVISION: Thu-Fri: 6:30-9:30 a.m. (GOLF); Sat-Sun: 6-8 a.m. (GOLF)
STREAM: Thu-Fri: 6:30-9:30 a.m. (NBC SPORTS APP); Sat-Sun: 6-8 a.m. (NBC SPORTS APP)
The Course: Royal Greens
The Royal Greens G & CC is a par 70 that will stretch to 7,010 yards for the debut of the Saudi International.
South African star Ernie Els described it this way in a feature in Golf Digest Middle East:
“You start out here at the clubhouse and you play a bit of desert golf, so to speak, with quite a few water hazards. They have a great balance through the course – right to lefts and left to rights – but the real treat is when you get out to 16, the wonderful 16th hole on the Red Sea.
“You think you’re on some island somewhere in the Caribbean with the watercolor and the contrast. It’s wonderful, and it’s a pretty difficult hole.
“So the back nine is really picturesque but so is the whole of the golf course. You don’t see too many holes where you actually go out to the ocean, so I thought that [the 16th] was a great addition to the course.”
Els feels the David Sampson-designed track is destined to become one of the “best in the Middle East.”
“I’ve played most of the courses in the Middle East from Dubai to Qatar to Abu Dhabi. I haven’t played Oman but this golf course here will be one of the players’ favorites,” continued Els.
“The greens can be quite tricky, as you can see here, the wind picks up in the afternoon which will make the scoring quite tough. But it is a fun golf course, if you play properly I think you can make some birdies and there are enough elements out there that will keep the guys honest.
“Your wind play will have to be there and your course management has to be there. Wonderful golf course, I’m looking forward to playing it.”
Full Field: World Rank & Odds
Top-5 Betting Favorites
Book Rank-Player (Odds)
1. Dustin Johnson (7-1)
2. Xander Schauffele (12-1)
3. Bryson DeChambeau (12-1)
3. Cameron Smith (12-1)
5. Tony Finau (20-1)
Saudi International | Royal Greens G&CC | King Abdullah Economic City, SA
Credit: European Tour Media, Getty Images