JEDDAH: Reigning Open Champion Cameron Smith has praised Saudi Arabia’s growth since his first visit in 2021 as he prepares to kick off his golf season at the $5 million PIF Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers.
After enjoying the off-season back home, the Australian is ready to launch is 2023 campaign.
“It feels really good to be getting the season started,” Smith said. “The course here is a really good test. Usually gets quite gusty and really windy around here, so you have to really control your ball. And the course looks fantastic as well.”
He added: “It’s nice to get out and see different parts of the world to help grow the game. This is my third time here, and you can see what’s been done just in those three years. It’s awesome.”
The world No.3 will hope to improve on his past two visits to Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, a course he has previously found challenging in the wind.
“It’s a really tough golf course, I think, off the tee,” he said. “That’s probably where I struggle the most in my game. When it gets a little breezy, those fairways become pretty tight, and there’s a couple of shots out there that are really uncomfortable for me.
“I spent a little bit of time today focusing a bit more on the driver, and seeing some shapes and maybe some lower shots with 3-wood just to get the ball in play,” said Smith. “It’s a really solid golf course. You obviously have to play well to win, but you have to navigate your way around and hole some putts.”
Three legends of the NFL were also enjoying their first visit to Saudi Arabia to attend the PIF Saudi International this week.
Brice Butler, Patrick Peterson and Eric Ebron played in the Pro-Am on Wednesday alongside 2011 Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel and also competed in a three-hole charity match against defending champion Harold Varner, raising money for Al-Iman Association and the Saudi Cancer Foundation.
Following the charity match Peterson said: “Golfing with Harold was awesome. I appreciate the invitation and being able to play with some friends that I’ve known for a while. It’s awesome, I’m looking forward to tomorrow. The course was awesome.”
Ebron added: “Great fun, had an awesome opportunity to come out here to Saudi to play some golf with Harold and my friends. It’s my first time over here and it’s been an awesome experience.”