JEDDAH: Saudi amateur golfer Faisal Salhab played No. 18 at 4 under for a 54-hole tournament as he stormed to a six-stroke victory in the 2019 Saudi Open on Saturday, qualifying for next year’s Saudi International — a European Tour event that will feature some of the biggest names in world golf.
He will be joined in the tournament, to be held from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club at King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) by English professional division winner Jamie Elson, who closed with a 1-under 71 for a three-day total of 210 on Saturday ahead of the Moroccan pair Ahmed Marjan and Ayoub Id Omar.
Saudi Golf Federation Chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan attended the prize-giving ceremony and awarded trophies to Salhab and Elson.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson and world No. 1 Brooks Koepka will headline the star-studded field vying for a total prize fund of $3.5 million.
Also confirmed to play are former Masters champions Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia, as well as reigning Open champion Shane Lowry and 2016 Open winner Henrik Stenson.
Salhab, a 23-year-old engineering student at Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, could give the likes of Johnson a run for their money given his prodigious length off the tee.
In the first round on Thursday, Salhab tamed the 7,330 yard layout with a 3-under 69, capping his rousing start when his up-and-down from the bunker on 18 landed four feet from the cup, and making the putt for a birdie.
Salhab played even better on Friday. He overshot the green to the right with his driver but holed his wedge for an eagle two that enabled him to temper an otherwise wild round of 74.
He again birdied 18 on the final day for a closing 71 and a 214 total, to the delight of the gallery, including his father, who Salhab said had always pushed him to the next level.
“This is my biggest individual victory,” said Salhab, who will travel to Dubai this week for a training camp with the rest of the Saudi national team, including 2018 Saudi Open winner Saud Al-Sharif.
The team is preparing for the Pan Arab Golf Championship from Dec. 9 to 15 in Morocco.
Salhab had missed the chance to join it for the inaugural Saudi International early this year because of his studies.
With his golf schedule now “back on track,” Salhab, whose family of seven all play golf, is looking to at least make the cut for next year’s Saudi International.
“I’m excited. I hope to play well, enjoy myself, and try to get the ball in the hole,” he told Arab News.
Elson said he was particularly thrilled to be joining some of the world’s best players in KAEC come January.
“I am incredibly happy, I started with my best round on the first day and everything came together so well for me. I hope to take my performance one step further once the Saudi International starts in January and continue my recent good run of form,” he said.