Let the fun begin: Saudi Ladies Team International tees off

Let the fun begin: Saudi Ladies Team International tees off
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The Saudi Ladies Team International is an entirely new team format event. (Supplied)
Let the fun begin: Saudi Ladies Team International tees off
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With $500,000 up for grabs, the three-day, 36-team event offers a serious payday for Ladies European Tour players. (Supplied)
Let the fun begin: Saudi Ladies Team International tees off
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With $500,000 up for grabs, the three-day, 36-team event offers a serious payday for Ladies European Tour players. (Supplied)
Let the fun begin: Saudi Ladies Team International tees off
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The Saudi Ladies Team International begins this week at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City. (Supplied)
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Updated 16 November 2020

Let the fun begin: Saudi Ladies Team International tees off

Let the fun begin: Saudi Ladies Team International tees off
  • Three-day event sees 36 teams of three pros and an amateur vie for $500,000 in prizes 

JEDDAH: Part two of the women’s golf week in Saudi Arabia — the fun part, if you will — takes place on Tuesday, as the Saudi Ladies Team International begins at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.

The event promises to be one of the most innovative tournament formats women’s golf has ever seen.

With $500,000 up for grabs, the three-day, 36-team event offers a serious payday for Ladies European Tour players. The weight of its prize fund is behind only the Women’s and Scottish Opens, and its weekend sister tournament, the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF.

However, “serious” is perhaps one of the last words organizers Golf Saudi would use to describe this week’s tournament, which comes toward the end of a challenging year for women’s golf and the wider sport.

“Everyone has experienced firsthand the impact of COVID-19 in 2020,” said Golf Saudi CEO Majed Al-Sorour. “Women’s golf has been no different, with many events canceled over the course of the year.

“We see the Saudi Ladies Team International as the perfect antidote to that. It’s a fun, exciting and innovative format that celebrates the women’s game, supports women’s golf and we hope offers the players a fun conclusion to a stop-start, sometimes difficult year.”

The Saudi Ladies Team International is a first-of-its-kind format, where 36 teams compete against each other while professionals concurrently vie for an individual title, with $500,000 total prize money on offer.

The teams were decided using an “NFL-style” draft system that saw each captain pick their first player before being randomly allocated a third professional teammate and a competing amateur, largely made up of event sponsors and partners.

Some of the standout picks include Amy Boulden selection of fellow Welsh star Chloe Williams. This may bring extra pressure to perform, as Chloe’s dad, Paul, doubles as Amy’s coach. Boulden did, however, admit that she had been left somewhat irked by England’s Florentyna Parker stealing her first choice pick, best pal Kelsey Macdonald of Scotland, earlier in the round — something bound to add extra spice to the event.

Elsewhere, Maha Haddioui opted for fellow Moroccan Ines Laklalech, while Australia’s Stephanie Kyriacou — the leading rookie on the LET — chose 16-year-old Pia Babnik for a team packed with youthful energy.

England’s Charley Hull was another captain, and she picked Scotland’s Alison Muirhead for her team.

Hull, who finished sixth in the weekend’s Saudi Ladies International, said: “I played with Alison last week and I thought she was pretty good. I played with her in Scotland in a practice round too and she was really nice, so it was an easy choice.

“It will feel different playing in a team event rather than as single players. It will be fun and help us relax a bit more. I’m looking forward to it.”

Muirhead added: “I’m really looking forward to the Saudi Ladies Team International, especially as I’ve got Charley in my team! I’m really excited to get started and feel we could do something as a team. We both have the game to do it and it’ll just be a matter of rolling in the putts and avoiding the bogeys.

“Playing as a team will be different because we’ll probably get off on each other’s energy, especially if you’re playing well and your playing partners are playing well.”

Morgane Metraux navigated Royal Greens with nine birdies on Sunday, en route to a final round 67 that secured her 10th spot in the SLI. That form and her swing caught the attention of Georgia Hall, the runner-up in the Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by Public Investment Fund. This partnership puts her in good stead for another strong showing this week.

“I’ve got a really good team so I’m looking forward to Tuesday. Georgia Hall picked me and we’re with Natasha Fear as well,” said Metraux.

“It’s really cool to have a different format like this where we’re also going to compete for an individual prize. To be playing in a team where you’re all counting towards the same score will mean we’re all pulling for each other, which will be different and a really fun atmosphere.”

In the lively atmosphere rounds will be played with live music echoing across the course and, akin to WWE wrestling, teams will arrive on the first tee to their own choice of entrance music. Team Charley Hull have chosen “Eye of the Tiger,” while die-hard Liverpool FC fan Dame Laura Davies will bring a little bit of Anfield to Saudi Arabia with club anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

There will also be stops for ice cream, and amateur players are in with a chance to win a brand-new car with a hole in one on the course’s iconic par-3 16th.

The team with the lowest total score after three days will be declared champions, with their three professionals taking home the winner’s share of the $300,000 prize fund. The lowest scoring pro player will get a share of the $200,000 individual prize fund.


DeChambeau: Power gives him advantage for Saudi International

DeChambeau: Power gives him advantage for Saudi International
Updated 19 January 2021

DeChambeau: Power gives him advantage for Saudi International

DeChambeau: Power gives him advantage for Saudi International
  • Physically transformed 2020 US Open champion relishing head-to-head with World No. 1 Dustin Johnson

JEDDAH: Big-hitting Bryson DeChambeau believes the length of Royal Greens Golf & Country Club’s tee-to-green puts him in prime position to pip world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and claim victory at next month’s Saudi International.

The 2020 US Open champion, famed worldwide for his colossal tee shots, the longest in Tour history, is King Abdullah Economic City-bound for his second crack at taking the Saudi crown that alluded him in 2019.

He was pipped to the title by Johnson, who returns alongside the biggest names in golf for the third annual hosting of the European Tour event next month.

However, 27-year-old DeChambeau heads to the Kingdom a different golfer this year, having not only transformed his physique and game to out-drive all other professional players, but as a Major champion, after clinching the US Open back in September.

He believes these two factors could prove critical in his quest for first place in two weeks’ time.

He said: “I feel like I have an even better advantage on the golf course because it is a bit of a bomber’s paradise, and I love that opportunity.

“When I played there, I finished sixth. I have a lot of great memories about the golf course and the character of the holes and being on the Red Sea, it was pretty unique and something that I want to experience again.

“I will tell you, though, that hitting it far there will be an advantage with some of the par 5s and I think it will fit me well, a lot better than the other golf courses.”

Much of the build-up around November’s delayed hosting of the Masters was focused on DeChambeau and how the Augusta course suited his big-hitting style of play.

However, it was to be his 2018 Ryder Cup teammate Johnson who eventually came out on top, further cementing his position as the world’s best. The fact that he will be teeing off against “DJ” next month is something that only adds to the excitement for DeChambeau, as he continues on his own mission to one day achieve top spot in World Golf rankings.

“Having a world No. 1 playing puts a little fire in my belly,” said DeChambeau. “I want to go over there and play and beat him. I was fortunate enough to clip him by one or two in Kapalua and if I keep doing that, if I keep beating him in every event, eventually the tables will turn.”

In his quest to be the world’s best, DeChambeau has famously reworked his entire game — and physique. In 2020 alone he gained 40 pounds to build his strength, and as a result extended his length off the tee by anywhere from 30 to 70 yards.

Although the tournament will be held without fans due to coronavirus disease restrictions, it will be shown live on KSA Sports, and DeChambeau is gearing up to show the Kingdom exactly what he has been working towards.