Hovland, Finau join stellar 2021 Saudi International field

Hovland, Finau join stellar 2021 Saudi International field
US golf star Tony Finau confirmed for 2021 Saudi International. (Supplied)
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Updated 23 December 2020

Hovland, Finau join stellar 2021 Saudi International field

Hovland, Finau join stellar 2021 Saudi International field
  • Hovland is undoubtedly the rising star of world golf

JEDDAH: Viktor Hovland and Tony Finau are the latest top-ranked international golf stars to confirm their entry in the third edition of the Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers.

The tournament is set to take place next year on Feb. 4-7 at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.

Hovland is undoubtedly the rising star of world golf, and at 23 years old, he sits at a career high ranking of world No.14 following his second PGA Tour win earlier this month. Hovland, from Norway, turned professional in 2019 having finished as low amateur in both the 2019 Masters and the 2019 US Open and reaching the pinnacle of the Amateur World Rankings. His transition into the professional ranks has been equally as impressive, and he will make his debut in Saudi Arabia as he too joins the ranks of the European Ryder Cup hopefuls looking to secure their place at Whistling Straits.

Joining the star-studded European contingent announced last month are Martin Kaymer, Matt Wallace, Bernd Wiesberger and Danny Willett, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, Tyrrell Hatton, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood and defending champion Graeme McDowell.

Hovland said: “My first full year as a professional, even given all the COVID-related difficulties, has been really amazing. I would never have dreamed that I would already have two PGA Tour titles, and winning the Mayakoba Golf Classic was the perfect way to finish up the year. As a European, trying to get my first European Tour victory will definitely be high on my agenda for 2021, and of course, trying to win my place on the European Ryder Cup team. I’ve only played in about six European Tour events in total, so I am excited to add some into my schedule and the Saudi International has the most impressive field of players already confirmed, so I think it’s going to be a huge week.”

US Ryder Cup star and world No. 18 Tony Finau joins a strong list of US players flocking to the Kingdom, with world No. 1 and 2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson, 2020 US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, five-time major winner Phil Mickelson and 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed already confirmed in the field.

“I was unable to make my debut in 2020, so I’m really looking forward to being there alongside an especially world-class field in February. I’ve heard nothing but positive things from my fellow players about their experiences at the tournament and their visit to the Kingdom. It should be a great week and I am excited to go,” said Finau.

With a lineup that looks set to ensure that the Saudi International will be one of the strongest events on the 2021 European Tour schedule, Golf Saudi is looking to build on the momentum of hosting two extremely successful weeks of Ladies European Tour events last month as interest and participation in golf continues to grow in the Kingdom.

Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi, said: “We fully appreciate and endorse the strength and value the best players in the world create, and from the outset made it our mission to consistently attract the strongest fields for the Saudi International.

“2021 is another step on our journey of aligning Saudi Arabia with the highest-profile events in world golf. We continue to shine a light on our growing passion for the sport, but also the strategic measures being taken to ensure we develop a vibrant and sustainable golfing nation.

“Our partnership and relationship with professional golf and the world’s best players is a central tenet within our long-term investment plans. We can’t wait to welcome them to the Kingdom and to crown our third champion.”


Saudi showjumpers riding high

Saudi showjumpers riding high
With SR130,000 ($34,600) in cash prizes, the three-day competition, held without spectators due to the coronavirus restrictions, has been organized by the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation (SAEF) in partnership with the Ministry of National Guard and the Diriyah Gate Development Authority. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 28 min 1 sec ago

Saudi showjumpers riding high

Saudi showjumpers riding high
  • Elite riders saddle up for $34,600 National Guard Ministry cup at Jeddah Trio Ranch

JEDDAH: The Saudi National Guard Ministry’s showjumping cup competition kicked off on Thursday at the Jeddah Trio Ranch, with Abdullah Al-Sharbatly and Dalma Malhas leading a top-class equestrian lineup.

With SR130,000 ($34,600) in cash prizes, the three-day competition, held without spectators due to the coronavirus restrictions, has been organized by the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation (SAEF) in partnership with the Ministry of National Guard and the Diriyah Gate Development Authority.
The competition consists of nine rounds, with three rounds each day. About 130 horses were registered in the competition. The fences were set at 1.15m for the small grade where about 80 riders competed on the first day.
Almost 40 equestrians took part in the 1.20m-1.25m medium grade. Another 20 competitors battled in the 1.30m-1.35m grade on the first day of competition.
“We have seven competitions under the names of seven ministries. After good international and Olympic results, support has doubled for equestrian sports, particularly showjumping,” a member of the SAEF technical committee, Ali Al-Sahli, told Arab News.
One rider, Naif Al-Sudairi, said that equestrianism in Saudi Arabia is making rapid advances on many levels.
“With Saudi Vision 2030, we now have more tournaments in all regions of the country, and the competition has heated up,” he told Arab News. “This can motivate the riders to improve and show our best in the run-up to international competitions.”
He added that he is looking forward to representing Saudi Arabia in the global equestrian events.

First day
In the small round on the first day of the competition, Khaled Al-Hady came first with 20 points. His horse, Doberlina Van de Kapel, came second with 18 points. Mohammed Hassan Al-Hadi was ranked third with 16 points, while Princess Al-Anoud Al-Saud secured fourth place with 14 points, and Waleed Al-Ghamdi was fifth with 12 points. Faisal Al-Ouda and Abdul Aziz Al-Hamazani came sixth and seventh, respectively.
In the medium class, Mohammed Al-Malki topped the ranking with 30 points followed by Khalid Al-Mobty, who collected 28 points. Badr Al-Fard came third with 26 points, and Abdullah Al-Sheikh was fourth with 24 points. Ahmed Bakarman came fifth with 22 points.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The competition consists of nine rounds, with three rounds each day.

• The fences were set at 1.15m for the small grade where about 80 riders competed on the first day.

• Almost 40 equestrians took part in the 1.20m-1.25m medium grade.

• Another 20 competitors battled in the 1.30m-1.35m grade on the first day of competition.

Malhas, who secured an individual bronze at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, after completing the round in 38 seconds without a single penalty, came ninth with 14 points. She is also the first Saudi female equestrian to take part in the individual hurdles at the 2018 World Equestrian Championship held in the US city of Tryon.


In the big round, Al-Sharbatly, who won the individual silver medal at the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games, came first with 40 points, followed by Abed Sanosy with 38 points. Fahad Al-Ghamdi was third with 36 points, while Badr Al-Fard was fourth with 34 points, and Talal Al-Juaid came fifth with 32 points. Sultan Al-Qarza’e and Khaled Al-Mobty came sixth and seventh, respectively.

Riders’ journey
Muneer Al-Ayoubi, who has been riding for over 20 years, told Arab News that showjumping requires understanding between rider and horse.
“I have been participating in showjumping (activities) for more than two years. It is the most difficult type of horse-riding activities,” he said. “Unlike horse racing and endurance riding, contestants have to keep training their horses. The rider and the horse should appear as if they were one soul.”
Arwa Mutabagani, owner and managing director of Jeddah Trio Ranch, said that they have riders of different levels from all over Saudi Arabia.
Speaking about the preparation to host the competition, Mutabagani said: “The horses arrive a couple of days before the competition, so we have to be ready. On-site, we have 150 horses participating, so we have different locations to host all these numbers. We made the warm-up arena ready for the riders to prepare their horses for the show.”
An Italian equestrian expert was brought in to handle the timing and ensure there are no complaints, she said. Mutabagani said that she is training a number of female riders to become champions. Family support is essential in this type of sport, she added.
“To reach a top position, dedication, family and team support, and sacrifices are all elements that should go together. You also have to have a good instructor, a good horse, and you have to have the right competition that can help you move to higher levels,” she said.
She mentioned her daughter, Dalma Malhas, as an example, saying: “When she was competing, she was young and spent weekends at the shows and not with her peers. So, you have to sacrifice being a normal teenager to reach the top.”
Meanwhile, Mohrah Faisal, a female equestrian who took part in the small round, said that she is grateful to SAEF for supporting female riders. “We did not have such an opportunity in the past. Now I hope I can represent the Kingdom at the Olympics.”
She said that her family believed in her passion for equestrianism once they saw her succeeding in many local competitions.
Wafa Hasson, another Saudi female rider, said she competed in the UAE two years ago after SAEF gave women riders the green light, which helped them improve.
Female riders are still looking for opportunities to learn. “I want to go as far as I can. I don’t really have a limit, I just want to see what I can achieve and I will do my best to achieve it.”
Ghalia Al-Musa, another participant, said that she has been riding for 13 years, and her mother is still her biggest supporter.
“SAEF allowed female riders to compete along with male riders in 2019, and it was good news for all female riders. In the same year, SAEF selected the best female riders to represent Saudi Arabia in the Arab Women Sports Tournament in Sharjah, UAE. We came second as a team and I came fourth as an individual,” she told Arab News.
Al-Musa also hopes to represent Saudi Arabia in international events, including the Olympics.
Heavy rain in Jeddah on Friday forced the organizing committee of the National Guard showjumping cup to combine the second and third day of competition on Saturday (10 a.m. to 11 p.m.) when the competition will come  to an end.