KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY; Saudi Arabia: Solheim Cup hero Emily Kristine Pedersen is aiming to thrive off the memories of her triple-title success in last year’s debut “Saudi swing” to triumph again in what promises to be an action-packed fortnight on the Red Sea coast.
The Dane bagged a clean sweep with victory in the inaugural $1 million Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by Public Investment Fund in 2020, and then both the team and individual elements in what was then the Saudi Ladies Team International – the precursor to the LET’s new Aramco Team Series.
She has returned to Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City as one of many big names set to battle it out for a share of $2 million over two weeks, starting with the Aramco Saudi Ladies International, teeing off tomorrow, which will be followed by the Aramco Team Series – Jeddah: the final outing of the exciting four-event team tournament.
But Pedersen will be the player to beat, after going low on all seven of last year’s tournament days to claim all three titles on offer.
The 25-year-old said: “It feels great to be back. I have a lot of good memories from here. As I’m walking the course there’s constantly good shots that I remember from last year, so it’s great. It’s nice too to stay in the same place for two weeks, especially if you like the course – and I like it here.”
Asked how her mindset differs between the two back-to-back events – one where the focus is as an individual, then the latter as a team format – Pedersen said: “It changes a little bit because obviously you’re in a team and you are cheering a little bit more for other players to do well than you normally do, but at the end of the day I feel like it comes down to how you play yourself. I’m just trying to do the best that I can every week – both in the individual and the team event – and hopefully that’s good enough to contribute to the team’s score.”
Pedersen will face stiff competition in an Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF field that includes Major champions Minjee Lee (AUS), Anna Nordqvist (SWE), Georgia Hall (ENG) and Dame Laura Davies (ENG), plus the likes of Charley Hull (ENG), Bronte Law (ENG) and Carlota Ciganda (ESP).
Another Major winner in the field is New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, who will be making her Saudi Arabian debut this week.
“The course is really nice,” said Ko, speaking at Wednesday’s pre-tournament press conference. “It has a good blend of tougher holes and some holes that are getable. That afternoon wind is a huge factor around this golf course but at the same time it cools the temperature down, so I’m for the wind!”
Asked if playing in different parts of the world was beneficial to her own development, Ko said: “We go to many different countries, different continents and this is my first time in this part of the world. Obviously playing in the British Open is very different than playing in the US Open, for example, and playing in this part of the world is also different. I think you’re able to get used to the different climates, the different grass.
“I think as a player the more diverse you are the more able you are to compete and contend at different events – you don’t end up being a player who plays in only one type of tournament. It’s great that we get to go to all these different courses and learn different types of shots that I necessarily wouldn’t be used to playing.”
Maha Haddioui, the LET’s only Arabic player, played a key role in inspiring more than 1,200 Saudi women and girls to take up golf the weekend of last year’s Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by PIF. Put into context, the Kingdom had fewer than 20 registered female golfers before the tournament.
Haddioui, who represented Morocco in the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year, explained: “This is my fifth time here now and I initially came for the men’s event. There, I gave clinics and initiations for girls and at that time I didn’t think I’d be coming here to compete.
“Coming here last year was incredible and I was really proud to see young women take up the game. Today, I was out with some of the Ladies First Club members and that was just awesome. Coming from Morocco and seeing women’s golf develop like this in the Middle East is a great thing – and seeing girls who were just learning how to play a year ago now playing in the Pro-Am with me just makes it very special.”
The Aramco Saudi Ladies International presented by Public Investment Fund gets underway at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club tomorrow, with the Aramco Team Series – Jeddah following, November 10-12th.
Tickets for both tournaments are available now, free of charge. For more information, visit www.aramcoteamseries.com