The fifth edition of the star-studded Saudi International gets underway on Thursday at the famed Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in one of the world’s must-see cities: King Abdullah Economic City.
Now under the umbrella of the underrated Asian Tour, the Saudi International field features a plethora of high-end talent, headlined by two of the world’s very best players in Cameron Smith and Dustin Johnson.
Those two headliners will be joined by superstars such as Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Bubba Watson, Abraham Ancer, Matthew Wolff, Paul Casey, Joaquin Niemann, Sergio Garcia, Bryson DeChambeau, Louis Oosthuizen, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood, and Patrick Reed, among others.
Tournament: PIF Saudi International
Dates: Feb. 2-5, 2023
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: $1,000,000
OWGR Pts: 50
2022 Champion: Harold Varner III
Other Notables: Brooks Koepka, Louis Oosthuizen, Talor Gooch, Branden Grace, Phil Mickelson, Abraham Ancer, Bubba Watson, Paul Casey, Joaquin Niemann, Cameron Smith, Cameron Champ, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter, Jason Kokrak, Kevin Na, Marc Leishman, Ian Poulter, Carlos Ortiz, Matt Jones, Graeme McDowell, Sebastian Munoz, Lee Westwood, Joaquin Niemann, Cameron Young
How to Follow the PIF Saudi International
TELEVISION: Thu-Fri: 6:30-9:30 a.m. (GOLF Channel); Sat: 7:30-9:30 a.m. (GOLF Channel); Sun: 9:30-11:30 a.m. (GOLF Channel)
STREAM: Thu-Fri: 5-9:30 a.m. (NBC SPORTS APP); Sat-Sun: 4:30-9 a.m. (NBC SPORTS APP)
LINKS: Website | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter
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 so-called “sportswashing,” similar to events in Dubai.
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.
Saudi International Winners
2022: Harold Varner III (-13)
2021: Dustin Johnson (-15)
2020: Graeme McDowell (-12)
2019: Dustin Johnson (-19)
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 b+an 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.”
Field: Saudi International
The field in Saudi Arabia is absolutely loaded and makes the PGA Tour at Pebble Beach look like beer-league chumps. Headliners include six-time major champ Phil Mickelson, four-time major winner Brooks Koepka, two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson, former world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, reigning British Open champion Cameron Smith and U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau.
Other superstars teeing it up include Cameron Young, Joaquin Niemann, Patrick Reed, Louis Oosthuizen, Abraham Ancer, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Matthew Wolff, among many others.
Top-5 Betting Favorites
Book Rank-Player (Odds)
1. Dustin Johnson (7-1)
1. Cameron Smith (7-1)
3. Cameron Young (12-1)
3. Joaquin Niemann (12-1)
5. Brooks Koepka (16-1)
5. Patrick Reed (16-1)
Full Field & Odds
Saudi International | Royal Greens G&CC | King Abdullah Economic City, SA
Credit: European Tour Media, Getty Images