The Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers returns with another world-class field as the European Tour’s Desert Swing concludes this week. Here are five things to know before the action gets under way on Thursday.
Best in the world
For the second consecutive year, the World Number One will tee it up in the Saudi International. Brooks Koepka, who cut his teeth on the Challenge Tour in 2012 and 2013, currently occupies the top spot on the Official World Golf Ranking, and returns to Royal Greens Golf & Country Club making only his second start after missing three months due to a knee injury. The American will look to improve on his tied 57th place finish in the inaugural Saudi International as he aims recapture the form that earned him four Major Championships in the last three seasons.
Royal Greens Golf & CC
At 7,010 yards, Royal Greens G&CC might not seem overly long, but considering it is a par 70 that only features two par fives—the 569-yard fourth and the 607-yard 18th— it will play much longer, and birdies will have to be earned the hard way.
Royal Greens was designed by European Golf Design, a joint-venture between the European Tour and IMG, and was opened in 2018. With spectacular views of the Red Sea, Royal Greens fits the billing of European Golf Design courses, which are consistently highly rated by golfers and the golf press alike. Three of their courses have been voted best new course in Europe, and two are named in the top 100 courses in the World. In 2010, The Twenty TenCourse at The Celtic Manor Resort in Wales hosted one of the most exciting Ryder Cup matches in history. They have won design commissions throughout Europe and beyond to Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean and Asia.
Phil the thrill
Phil Mickelson returns to the European Tour this week for his debut appearance in the Saudi International. In addition to his five Major Championships and three World Golf Championships victories, the golfing icon has two other European Tour wins under his belt— the 2013 Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open and the 2008 HSBC Champions.
Want an amazing ‘Phil phact’ to impress your friends? In 1992, the superstar secured a little-known victory on the Challenge Tour at the Tournoi Perrier Paris defeating Steve Elkington by one shot in a field that also included John Daly, Rocco Mediate, Billy Ray Brown and Duffy Waldorf.
Dustin Johnson returns to the site of his first victory in 2019 and will look to keep his hands on the Saudi International trophy when he tees off this week. Both of Johnson’s professional wins last year came in European Tour-sanctioned events, as he followed his success in King Abdullah Economic City with a win at the WGC-Mexico Championship. Keep your eye on the long-hitting American who we know likes the course.
Ryder Cup Qualification
Some of Europe’s best players are on site at Royal Greens and there is plenty to play for. Players like Shane Lowry, Bernd Wiesberger and Matt Wallace will look to capitalise on the confidence they earned in 2019 and put precious points on the board as they bid for a maiden berth on Team Europe. Adding to the star-studded field are Ryder Cup veterans Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, and recent Rolex Series winner Lee Westwood, who would all love to avoid asking Captain Padraig Harrington to use one of his three Captain’s picks on them. Rafa Cabrera Bello and Thomas Pieters tee it up this week with an eye on returning to Team Europe, while Victor Perez begins the week as Europe’s highest ranked Ryder Cup points earner in the field.