Many of the world’s leading golf stars are set to take part in the inaugural Saudi International golf tournament, which begins on January 31, 2019, despite calls to avoid the tournament after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The new event forms part of the European Tour and is the first professional golf tournament to be held in Saudi Arabia, but since the event was first announced the country has come under increasing scrutiny over its hosting of sporting events.
The tournament runs from January 31 to February 3 at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club,which opened in 2017 at the King Abdullah Economic City.
As well as Saudi Arabia’s leading golfer Othman Almulla, the world’s top three golfers, Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson, will be among the 132 players competing for the $3.5 million prize fund.
Othman Almulla was the first Saudi Arabian to play at the @OMEGAGolfDubai. We can’t wait to see our very own @o_almulla_golf take on the world’s best at the first ever @EuropeanTour tournament in Saudi Arabia! #KAEC #SaudiIntlGolf pic.twitter.com/91OPUvD7kY
— Saudi International (@SaudiIntlGolf) January 2, 2019
Other notable names such as Patrick Reed, Paul Casey and Thomas Bjorn are also confirmed for the tournament.
Despite calls in the media to avoid the tournament after Khashoggi’s murderin October 2018, organisers and players have been insistent that it will go ahead as planned.
American Patrick Reed said: “We’re athletes. We are going over to play golf. It’s a different thing than politics.”
🌏 Saudi Arabia
⛳ Royal Greens G&CC
📅 January 2019https://t.co/PS04BWUyeW
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) March 8, 2018
In December Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter were also confirmed to be entering the tournament. All four were part of the winning Team Europe side from September’s Ryder Cup.
Rose said: “It’s an honour to be part of history and compete in the first professional tournament in the Kingdom,” while Stenson added: “I’ve heard a lot about the Kingdom’s plans to grow golf in the region and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
The Saudi International follows the Abu Dhabi Championship and the Dubai Desert Classic, marking the final event in a ‘Desert Swing’ trio of European Tour events in the Middle East at the start of 2019.
Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Chairman of the Saudi Golf Federation, said: “With the visual impact of Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, the impressive host venue facilities and the beauty of the Red Sea coastline, we have all the ingredients for a successful opening year and are confident all the players will leave holding Saudi Arabia and its golf prospects in the highest regard.”