The eighth event of the 2018-19 European Tour season is upon us with this week’s inaugural Saudi International – the third leg of the Middle East Swing.
With money not an issue in the Saudi Kingdom, the field at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club is loaded with talent, headlined four of the world’s top-5 ranked players, including Justin Rose (No. 1) and Bryson DeChambeau (No. 5), who both enter off wins. World No. 2 Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson (No. 3) are the other top-ranked stars.
Those four headliners will be joined by the two most recent Masters champions in Patrick Reed (2018) and Sergio Garcia (2017), along with European Ryder Cup stars Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter, and Thorbjorn Olesen.
Tournament: Saudi International
Dates: Jan 31-Feb 3, 2019
Where: King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Course: Royal Greens G & CC
Distance: Par 70 / 7010 yards
Architect: David Sampson
Format: 132 players, 72 holes, 36-hole cut, stroke play
Winning Share: $500,000
Defending Champion: New Event
Marquee Players: Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Eddie Pepperell, Ian Poulter, Haotong Li, Thorbjorn Olesen, Matt Wallace, Ernie Els, Lee Westwood
Rd 1: Thu 6:00 – 9:00 am
Rd 2: Fri 6:00 – 9:00 am
Rd 3: Sat 6:00 – 9:00 am
Rd 4: Sun 6:00 – 9:00 am
All times EST on Golf Channel
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
Saudi International | Royal Greens G&CC | King Abdullah Economic City, SA
Credit: European Tour Media, Getty Images