LONDON: Brooks Koepka and Bryson Dechambeau have added their names to the star-studded list set to tee it up at the inaugural Saudi International this month.
The tournament completes the Middle East swing of the European Tour and now arguably has the strongest field of the trio of tournaments taking place in January — the Abu Dhabi Championship and Dubai Desert Classic being the other, more established, events.
The two Americans join an impressive field looking to win the first title at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.
The new stop off on the European Tour wanted to make a statement and it has by landing Koepka, meaning the tournament now has the past three world No.1s in the field — Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson are heading the event.
Added to that impressive threeball is Masters champion Patrick Reed, while Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter have also been confirmed.
With Dechambeau being ranked world No.5 that means the Saudi International can boast of having four of the world’s top five players teeing it up at the Red Sea course.
That is something that that can only be good for the growth of golf in the Kingdom, according to Yasir Al-Rumayyan, chairman of the Saudi Golf Federation.
“Our intention from the outset was to secure one of the strongest fields in world golf to compete in our inaugural event,” Al-Rumayyan said. “(The announcement of Koepka and Dechambeau) is the final step and completes a headline roster befitting a championship of this significance and will attract major national and international interest.”
There has long been a battle between Abu Dhabi and Dubai to bag the strongest fields. For years Dubai could boast of having Tiger Woods take on the iconic Majlis course, while Abu Dhabi have attracted big names such as Phil Mickelson to grace the fairways of the UAE capital. Both are now firmly established events but took some time to attract the stellar names that they do on a regular basis now. So to have such an impressive field for the inaugural event is a big statement of intent by the Saudi International.
Koepka cannot wait to get on to the first tee.
“I started my professional career in Europe and the diversity of tournaments and experiences I enjoyed has undoubtedly helped broaden my game and helped me to perform on the international stage,” the three-time Major winner said.
“It’s always exciting to line up against the best players in the world and I am looking forward to experiencing the culture of a new country.”
Completing the impressive list of golfing talent on show are European Ryder Cup heroes Lee Westwood and Thorbjørn Olesen and four-time Major winner Ernie Els.
The South African played in an exhibition match against Saudi golfer Othman Almulla last year and said: “I’ve played golf all over the world and was delighted to be invited to play Royal Greens.
“The place is spectacular and it will be a great venue for the event.
“I’ve spent some time getting to know a little bit about the Kingdom’s plans to accelerate golf development in the country and I’m privileged to be a part of it,” the South African added.
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