JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s leading golfers have arrived in King Abdullah Economic City ahead of what they hope will be a history-making appearance at next week’s Saudi International.
The Kingdom’s first and only professional golfer Othman Almulla and rising amateur star Faisal Salhab teed-up on their opening practice rounds at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club ahead of the third annual hosting of Saudi Arabia’s flagship European Tour event, which is powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers.
This will be Almulla’s third and Salhab’s second time playing in the $3.5 million tournament, where they will once again come head-to-head with the biggest names in world golf, including defending champion Graeme McDowell, 2020 Masters champion and the winner of the debut 2019 Saudi International Dustin Johnson, and big-hitting US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau.
Add to that a field packed with no less than ten Race to Dubai crowns, 22 Major championship wins, more than 900 international victories and 29 Ryder Cup players with 90 appearances between them, and it is safe to say the locals certainly do have their work cut out for them.
However, both players are once again relishing the opportunity to test themselves against the best, and — alongside fellow amateur Saud Al-Sharif — will be hoping to become the first Saudis to make the cut when the action gets underway next Thursday.
Almulla, 34, said: “I’m super excited for the third edition of the Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers. To see the growth of the game in the last three years and to see a world-class event being hosted again in Saudi Arabia with a superstar field is just amazing.
“It’s a great time for golf in the Kingdom and for Saudi golfers, and for myself and my friends Faisal and Saud it’s another opportunity to put ourselves in a great arena playing against the best players in the world and learning from
Next week’s tournament is widely considered to be the most prestigious regular event on the European Tour in 2021, making it the best chance for golfers to earn all-important Olympic Golf Ranking points prior to the cutoff in June 2021.
Both the current gold and silver medallists, Britain’s Justin Rose, and Swede Henrik Stenson, are playing in the event.
The field is packed with huge names, including Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Patrick Reed, Ernie Els, Kevin Na, Ian Poulter, Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood and last week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship winner, Tyrrell Hatton.
But Salhab, 24, remains unfazed: “Playing in events like this and against players of this stature are the reason you play golf in the first place. For an event of this level to be held in our own backyard here in Saudi Arabia is something so special, and I can’t wait to get out there playing again.”
He added: “My game feels good and hopefully I can take what I learned playing in last year’s event into this one.”
The Saudi International starts on Feb. 4 and runs until Feb. 7, with all the action broadcast live on KSA Sports.