European, US golf stars to play Asian Tour’s Saudi showpiece

SINGAPORE: Golf stars including reigning champion Dustin Johnson and major winners Bryson DeChambeau, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia will play next year’s US$5 million (RM21m) Saudi International, the Asian Tour said on Monday.

The tour, which recently struck a US$200m (RM848m) investment deal with Greg Norman and his ambitious Saudi backers, called it “the strongest field in its history”.

The Saudi International, which takes place on Feb 3-6 near Jeddah, was won by Johnson in 2019 and this year, when the tournament was sanctioned by the European Tour.

It is now the flagship event on the Asian Tour.

Other European and American stars who have signed up to play include Lee Westwood, Jason Dufner, Tommy Fleetwood and Xander Schauffele.

The Saudis’ big move into golf has been viewed with suspicion among some, especially the US PGA Tour and the European Tour, which has been rebranded the DP World Tour.

Together they have formed a “strategic alliance”.

Majed Al-Sorour, CEO and deputy chairman of Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation, said this was just the beginning and acknowledged that there were detractors.

“While we do not allow ourselves to be distracted from our long-term objectives by any external voices, we have been encouraged by strengthening discussions around the importance of fresh competition and innovation in the professional game,” he said.

“We are strong advocates for this, as we see it as the only way to achieve golf’s true global potential and realise the game’s considerable untapped value.

“All we will say is it is better for the sport if the competition remains healthy and respectful, as opposed to hostile, as all parties look at new ways to benefit this great game.” – AFP