Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: World number one Dustin Johnson, 2020 US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau and defending champion Graeme McDowell have confirmed their participation in the third edition of the Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers.
Shaping up to be the strongest line-up on the European Tour’s Middle East swing, the first two winners of the Saudi International, Johnson and McDowell will be joined at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club from February 4-7, 2021, by fellow Major champion DeChambeau.
“We are delighted that Saudi Arabia is open and able to host sporting events of such stature and announcing these three international golf stars is proof of that,” said Majed Al Sorour, CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi, an Executive Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.
He added: “We are very proud of the field we are assembling to play in the Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers and are happy to have the support of so many of the world’s best golfers as it shows us that we are moving our event in the right direction.
“We have many more star names to announce in the coming weeks but we are absolutely delighted to start with these three great champions and are proud to host the third edition of this important event in Saudi Arabia as we work to develop golf in the region.”
The men’s event will be Saudi Arabia’s third professional golf tournament in the space of three months. The Kingdom is due to host back-to-back world-class debut tournaments next month: the US$1 million Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF (November 12-15), and the US$500,000 Saudi Ladies Team International (November 17-19).
As the latest Major winner, DeChambeau had the whole golf world talking as he emerged from lockdown with a transformed physique, some 20 pounds of muscle heavier than when he last visited the Kingdom in 2019. He claimed his first Major in style at Winged Foot last month, finishing six shots clear of the field and was the only player under par.
A seven-time winner on the PGA Tour who has risen to fifth on the Official World Golf Ranking, DeChambeau is returning to Saudi Arabia having played in the inaugural tournament in 2019.
DeChambeau said: “I have undergone a lot of changes since I last visited the Kingdom as I work to fulfil my golf potential and I think you can say the same about golf in Saudi as it continues to develop as Golf Saudi endeavour to grow the game.
“I finished a credible tied sixth in 2019 and I hope to finish a little better this year. But I am also really interested to see what has changed and how golf has grown since my last visit.”
Johnson, who followed up his 2019 victory by finishing second behind McDowell this year, said: “I am really looking forward to returning to Saudi Arabia for a third consecutive year. I’ve enjoyed both of my visits and love the golf course, as evidenced by my win and runner-up finish. The scuba diving experiences I’ve had in the Red Sea have also been amazing!”
With 23 PGA Tour titles to his name, Johnson also feels he has a part to play in continuing the growth of the game by bringing it to new markets such as the Kingdom. He said: “It’s been pretty neat to witness the growth of golf in the Kingdom and it’s definitely one of the reasons I like to play in Saudi Arabia. Golf has been such an important part of my life, so it’s nice to get the chance to play a part in introducing it to a new audience. In just the past two years you can see the interest level rising in Saudi, especially amongst the juniors.”
Northern Irishman McDowell, winner of the 2010 US Open, was a popular winner this year as a 12-under-par total saw him add an 11th European Tour title to his resume, thwarting Johnson’s title defence.
The Ryder Cup star said: “From the high of winning the 2020 Saudi International in February against such an amazing field we very quickly had to contend with all that Covid-19 has thrown at us so I think I was lucky to be able to hold onto that awesome winning feeling through the darker parts of lockdown.
“I am really looking forward to getting 2020 over and having a fresh start to 2021 and, from what I’ve heard about how the field is shaping up, it sounds like almost everyone has decided to make that fresh start in Saudi Arabia!
“I don’t think I have ever seen a tournament establish itself so quickly on the players’ schedules as the Saudi International has. The Royal Greens Golf & Country Club is a great course and huge credit to the Saudi Golf Federation for gathering such a world-class field as they look to inspire a new generation of golfers in the Kingdom.”