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Asian Tour joins the big time in Saudi


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Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: The Asian Tour will present the strongest field in its history when the 2022 Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers takes place at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club from February 3-6.


The landmark occasion will bring together household names across recent generations of the global game, as well as future stars of Asian golf, to compete for an increased prize purse of US$5 million and one of the highest Official World Golf Ranking point totals in international golf.


Major champions already confirmed for the 2022 Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers are Americans Bryson DeChambeau, Jason Dufner, Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson, Australian Adam Scott, Irishmen Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell, South African Louis Oosthuizen, Spaniard Sergio Garcia and Swede Henrik Stenson.


Also in the starting line-up will be American Xander Schauffele, gold medallist in last year’s Olympic Games tournament, and English Ryder Cup stalwarts Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood.


Great opportunity for Asian Tour players


The leading lights of the Asian Tour will also have a significant presence with the inclusion of the top-30 ranked players at the end of the 2020/21 season within the Saudi International field.


The final 30 will be confirmed this month following a season-ending double-header in Singapore, with the likes of Jazz Janewattananond, Scott Hend, Gavin Green, John Catlin, Shiv Kapur, Wade Ormsby and Kim Joo-hyung already having participated in the Asian Tour’s returning events in Thailand last month.


Golf Saudi is a staunch supporter of men’s and women’s professional golf and continues to view the participation of the world’s best players in Saudi-based events as a key driver of interest amongst residents and growth of the sport’s popularity throughout the country.


“The 2022 edition of The International is the strongest yet, but we are still only in the formative years of our vision for golf in the Kingdom,” said Majed Al-Sorour, CEO and Deputy Chairman of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi, an Executive Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.


He added: “We are seeing great progress in participation with boys and girls through our national grass roots and schools’ programmes, and are enjoying a significant uptick in demand from men and women throughout the Kingdom. We are also enjoying a rich vein of form with our national amateur teams.


“Whilst this is a product of many factors, there is no denying the massive impact the best players in the world can have on creating multi-generational interest in the sport. This is why we place such importance on securing the strongest field possible, each and every year.”


The recently announced partnership with the Asian Tour, which included a 10-year sanction of the Saudi International from 2022, has created widespread interest but also great benefit within the sport.


After an 18-month suspended season, it will contribute to the Asian Tour’s re-emergence and generate new opportunities for players across the global golf landscape.


Al-Sorour said: “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.


“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.”


The Saudi International field will include a broad spectrum of exemption categories that will see new competitors visit Saudi Arabia for the first time.


This means new opportunities for many of the Asian Tour’s best performers to try their luck over the Royal Greens course.


“With a new showpiece event and a field of such outstanding calibre lined-up for the Saudi International in 2022, there can only be positives for the game as a whole,” said Cho Minn Thant, CEO of the Asian Tour, a Full Business Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.


He added: “We are extremely optimistic about how these new opportunities will encourage emerging talent, expose a broader base of players to elevated competition and attract a deeper and more engaged fan base."


“History will reflect upon how developments like the Saudi International and Golf Saudi’s partnership with the Asian Tour helped see in a new era in the professional game. With the right guidance, it’ll be the sport that benefits most, with more top athletes from across a wider geographical spectrum present at the very top level and more interest from a more diverse and committed group of stakeholders.”


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