JEDDAH: Major winners Sergio Garcia and Shane Lowry have hailed the “exciting” growth of golf in the Kingdom on the eve of the Saudi International.
The second edition of the tournament will see the European pair joined by world No. 1 Brooks Koepka, defending champion Dustin Johnson, US stars Patrick Reed and Phil Mickelson, England’s Lee Westwood and Swede Henrik Stenson at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club.
Ten major champions will be among the players competing for $3.5 million in prize money.
Garcia, the 2017 Masters winner and Ryder Cup stalwart, said the Saudi International, powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers, was a fast-growing regional event.
“Everyone is really trying hard to make it a great event, it’s definitely on its way. It just comes down to us to put on a good show.
“The quality of this event is really good. We’re excited to be back here in Saudi. I think it’s very important to support events in new countries. At the end of the day, we are trying to globalize the game of golf.”
The 40-year-old Spaniard added that his game was in a good place for a huge 2020 season for the game, that included the Olympics and a Ryder Cup. “I feel like the short game has been quite solid for both weeks. It’s just a matter of me keeping grinding and improving on every aspect of the game.”
Irish golfer Lowry, the defending Open champion, said the 7,010-yard par 70 layout suited his game, adding that international golf stars were in the fortunate position of having an opportunity to bring the game to new locations and inspire Saudis to take part.
“The golf course is very good, very much a Middle East-style golf course, and something that I liked the look of straightaway. It’s in absolutely perfect condition.
“It’s always cool and interesting to come to new places. I find the European Tour is always like that. Golf’s a great game and we’re very fortunate to do it. People of all standards, ages, sizes get involved and play with other people. That’s why I love the game,” added Lowry.
Saudi Arabia’s leading golfers, professional Othman Almulla, and amateurs Saud Al-Sharif and Faisal Salhab will all be teeing it up Thursday.
US player Reed said: “It’s a special opportunity for the local players to make an impression with the golfing world watching on. It’s awesome seeing players from Saudi playing. I hope they play well.
“Hopefully someone can make the cut for the weekend, because it’s always special time to be here at the weekend in a golf tournament,” he added.