Victorious European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn as well as reigning US Open and PGA Championship title holder Brooks Koepka are among the headline acts for the inaugural Saudi International powered by SBIA.
The tournament takes place in King Abdullah Economic City at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club from January 31 to February 3.
Headlining the field, which already includes world No1 and 3, Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson, will be three-time major winner and world No2 Koepka. The 2018 PGA Tou_r Player of the Year not only defended his US Open title last summer, becoming the first player to do so in 29 years, but he went on to add to his major haul at the PGA Championship.
Fellow American Bryson Dechambeau (world No5), who boasts three PGA Tour victories in his last seven starts, completes the American contingent and will head to Saudi Arabia having opened his season with a seventh place finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions last week.
Joining them for the event, which features on the European Tour schedule for the first time, is four-time major champion and 71-time tournament winner, Ernie Els, who will make his second trip to King Abdullah Economic City, having been part of the grand opening in April 2018.
Completing the list of golfing talent on show are European Ryder Cup heroes Lee Westwood and Thorbjorn Olesen, who each played their part in Europe’s dramatic victory at Le Golf National, with Westwood, a veteran of 10 Ryder Cup matches as a player, serving as vice captain and debutant Olesen claiming a vital singles point against Jordan Spieth.
The tournament field now boasts four of the world’s top five players, seven major champions and eight players from last year’s Ryder Cup.
Speaking about the latest additions to the field, HE Yasir Al-Rumayyan, chairman of the Saudi Golf Federation, said: “Our intention from the outset was to secure one of the strongest fields in world golf to compete in our inaugural event.
“Today’s announcement is the final step and completes a headline roster befitting a championship of this significance and will attract major national and international interest.”
Koepka, a former world No1, said: “I started my professional career in Europe and the diversity of tournaments and experiences I enjoyed has undoubtedly helped broaden my game and helped me to perform on the international stage.
“It’s always exciting to line up against the best players in the world and I am looking forward to experiencing the culture of a new country.”
South African veteran Els, who will lead the International Team as Presidents Cup captain in Australia later this year, added: “I’ve played golf all over the world and was delighted to be invited to play Royal Greens earlier this year.
“The place is spectacular and it will be a great venue for the event. I’ve spent some time getting to know a little bit about the Kingdom’s plans to accelerate golf development in the country and I’m privileged to be a part of it.”
The tournament will take place within King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, which lies along the spectacular Red Sea coastline.
The club boasts a premier championship golf course, a state-of-the-art clubhouse, a world-class practice facility and stunning residential and recreational facilities.
Attracting many of the best players in the world, the Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisory will place a special focus on families, community, charity and junior development as the Kingdom looks to develop its golfing pedigree.
Great Britain’s Charley Hull is looking forward to teeing off a pivotal season when she makes her tournament debut at this week’s Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open at Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Beach Golf Club.
The 22-year-old will be joined by the likes of Jodi Ewart Shadoff, defending champion Aditi Ashok and Anne Van Dam during the third edition. Under the new format, 56 professional golfers will join forces with 56 amateurs to form team pairings from Thursday-Saturday – with an individual title also up for grabs.
For Hull, she returns to action after a 2018 that featured a career-best three top-10 major finishes and begins a 2019 that should contain a fourth Solheim Cup appearance.
“I think I am very close,” the world No24 replied when asked about what must change for her to land the sport’s grandest prizes. “I had three top-10s at the majors, plus a second, a third and another sixth at another event.
“I was in the top 20, regularly. I was very consistent.
“I hit a lot of greens in regulations, so it’s just about tidying up my putting. I’ve worked very hard this pre-season, so I feel confident.”
Hull became the youngest competitor to participate in the Solheim, aged 17, when Europe emerged victorious in 2013. The United States have, however, claimed the last two editions.
This is a state of play the Kettering native wants to correct at Gleneagles from September 13-15.
She said: “It’s going to be in the UK this year, so I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.
“Obviously, it being on my home turf makes it more fun – and it’s easier to travel to.”
After a solid pre-season back home, Hull is embracing a pleasant start to the Ladies European Tour.
She said: “I am looking forward to this week. I think it is going to be a lot of fun and a good way to start the season, with a bit of sunshine.”
European Tour heroes Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood are the latest golfing superstars to enter the hunt for the prestigious Falcon Trophy at this year’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
With a combined 60 victories between them, Poulter and Westwood have confirmed their appearance at the event, presented by EGA, which begins on 16thJanuary. The tournament is the first of eight Rolex Series events on the 2019 European Tour international schedule.
Poulter, the former world number five will be looking to capitalise on his recent good form that saw him victorious at the 2018 Houston Open claiming two valuable points for the European Ryder Cup team. “I can’t wait play The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship,” he said. “From the immaculate greens to the world-class hospitality, it is my favourite tournament in the Middle East.”
Fellow Englishman and former world number one, Lee Westwood, has enjoyed a stunning return to form recently, winning last month’s Rolex Series Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player in South Africa, and is looking to continue his rise up the world rankings in Abu Dhabi. “I’m looking ahead to my 2019 season after winning in South Africa, it’s pretty exciting,” said Westwood. “It felt great to finish the season with a win and now I can’t wait to get back out on Tour and try to continue where I left off in 2018. I’m thrilled to be heading to Abu Dhabi feeling like I am in with a really decent chance of featuring on the leader board.”
First staged in 2006, The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA is being hosted at the iconic Abu Dhabi Golf Club for the 14thconsecutive year from January 16th-19th. The tournament recently became part of the prestigious Rolex Series and with a prize fund now at US$7million (Dhs 25,700,000).
H.E. Aref Al Awani, General Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, said: “Ian and Lee are two players who have lit up the golfing world over the last 20 years and we are delighted to welcome them back to Abu Dhabi. Such a strong calibre of player matches our new Rolex Series status and solidifies our position as a pioneer in the world of hosting top quality global sporting events.”
What: 2019 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA
Where: Abu Dhabi Golf Club
When: 16th– 19thJanuary
Contact: Tickets are available from www.ticketmaster.ae