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Saudi International 2022 LIVE blog: Harold Varner III wins with last minute eagle

The Saudi International 2022 is underway and surprisingly many stars from the US and Europe are taking part in the $5 million event. Follow Dustin Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and all the others in our LIVE BLOG. Latest updates are posted here regularly. Refresh the page to see the latest posts.

The tournament is controversially discussed. While many international stars are taking part in exchange for high entry fees, many media outlets are pointing out the human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. The organisers are accused of “sport washing” to distract from the country’s bad image. The golf pros largely ignore the debate.

FIND ALL NEWS ON THE TOURNAMENT HERE.

Day 3 of the Saudi International 2022 LIVE

13:30

Harold Varner III scores even better and holes his eagle putt on the 18th hole. He wins the Saudi International 2022.

13:25

Varner shots a birdie on hole 17. If he manages to score another one on his last hole there will be a playoff between him and Bubba Watson.

13:10

Bubba Watson takes the lead with a stunning birdie-eagle finish. He is now at -12 and holds a two shot lead before Varner. Varner has still two holes to play.

12:30

Harold Varner III faced some difficulties at the 14th hole and scored a doublebogey. He falls back at -11 but remains on position number one.

Tommy Fleetwood is at -9 after another bogey on hole 14, he is one shot in front of Englishman Steve Lewton, who is at -2 for the day (-8 for the tournament) and made his way up the leaderboard.

11:50

Bubba Watson falls back at -3 for the day and the shared 4th position with Matthes Wolff at -9 overall score.

11:30

Adri Arnaus maybe can’t withstand the pressure and falls back to -11 with three bogeys in a row and a share of 2nd place with Tommy Fleetwood, two strokes behind Varner.

11:00

Frustating doublebogey for Bubba Watson makes him fall back at T5 and -9.

Adri Arnaus bogeys as well and is now again in a shared lead with Varner at -13.

10:40

Bubba Watson takes off, with five under par on the front nine he is only three strokes behind Adri Arnaus, who moves back to the top of the leaderboard with an eagle on hole 7.

Matthew Wolff is just one shot behind Watson at T4 with Tommy Fleetwood.

Dustin Johnson falls back with two consecutive bogeys on hole 8 and 9. He is now at +1 on the shared 13. rank.

10:10

With a bogey from Adri Arnaus and a Birdie from Harold Varner III the leader changes once more. Varner is now again in the lead at -13.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson is at -1 at T8 after starting strong with a birdie, followed with a bogey on the 3. hole and a second birdie on hole 4.

09:40

Adri Arnaus takes the solo lead with a birdie at the 4. hole. He is now at -13. Tommy Fleetwood scored a birdie as well and is now at -11 on third position.

09:20

Adri Arnaus has a strong start. With a birdie on the second hole he ties first place with Varner at -12.

Phil Mickelson is on a good run as well. With three birdies within seven holes he is currently at T10 with a six under par total score.

Defending champion Dustin Johnsons starts with three pars in a row and sits at ninth position with -7.

08:30

Strong start for Bubba Watson and Matthew Wolff. Watson played back to back birdies on his first two holes and is climbing the leaderboard with -8 in total. Wolff is at -2 as well and sits one shot behind Watson on T6.

08:20

This, or something like it, is how the pros prepared for the final day of the Saudi International. Xander Schauffele starts his round with a birdie.
The last flight with Fleetwood, Arnaus and Varner III is about to start the exciting last round at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club.

14:53

And that’s it! Harold Varner III manages to birdie the 18th, Arnaus plays par and so the American goes into Sunday with a one stroke lead and a total score of -12.

But behind the leading duo lurk a number of top stars. Tommy Fleetwood (-10), Cameron Smith (-9) and Dustin Johnson (-7) will do everything they can to catch Varner III.

That’s it for today from the Saudi International! We’ll be back for them tomorrow when the title is on the line!

14:25

Defending champion Dustin Johnson finished today’s round with a birdie and is currently tied for fifth place.

14:05

And directly the next bogey for the Spaniard and thus Harold Varner III is again in the solo lead with three holes to go.

13:41

Two bogeys at the top. Both Arnaus and Varner III have to accept a stroke loss at the 14th hole and are now only two strokes ahead of the first chasers.

13:08

Fleetwood runs hot! With back-to-back birdies on holes 12 and 13, the Englishman is now knocking at the top of the leaderboard. He is still two shots behind the leading duo, but with five holes to go, it looks like Fleetwood will be in a good position for tomorrow.

12:50

The two players in the last flight don’t give each other anything today! While Varner III has to accept a bogey on the 11th, Arnaus plays the first two holes of the back nine birdie and already both are back on top at -12, with seven holes to go.

12:20

Half time on Moving Day! The top players start their back nine. Harold Varner III is now two strokes ahead of the first pursuers Adri Arnaus andย  three strokes in front of Cam Smith.

11:59

That’s what we call good content: Range session with Bubba Watson, you gotta love it!

11:50

What an up and down. Cam Smith corrects his bogey on the sixth with a birdie on the eighth and moves past Arnaus into second place. The Spaniard Arnaus had to accept his second bogey at the eight and falls back.

There is also a lot happening on the places behind. Tommy Fleetwood seems to have found his momentum. The Englishman is now in a strong fourth place.

11:36

While Harold Varner III and Adri Arnaus are back at the top of the leaderboard, we have already collected the first pictures of the day for you! Click here!

11:07

The first players are already back in the clubhouse. By now, the best round of the day is played by Paul Casey (64/-6). The Englishman shows a top performance on the back nine, plays five birdies and sits on a shared 16th place.

11:05

Not bad at all!

10:52

Harold Varner III strikes back! After a bumpy start, the American seems to have caught himself and plays an eagle on the fourth hole. With this he passes Arnaus/Smith again and is now in the solo lead.

10:34

Cameron Smith moved to the top of the leaderboard. After three holes, the Australian is at -1 and also benefits from the slips of Arnaus and Varner III, who are both one over par after three holes. Slowly, the Moving Day is really starting to move!

10:13

Henrik Stenson also gets off to a good start. The Swede plays three consecutive birdies at the holes 4, 5 and 6 and catapults himself to the shared tenth place.

The two leaders Adri Arnaus and Harold Varner start the moving day with a par.

9:22

What a start from Ian Poulter. The Englishman seems to have set his sights high for today and plays the first six holes three under par. At the moment that means a shared 20th place for Poulter.

Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson are now also on the course and both played a birdie on the first hole!

8:50

The last two players on the moving day are on their way. Who can make up places today, who can keep the connection to the top group? Now in the live ticker!

05.02.2022 – Moving Day

15:10

The second round of the Saudi International 2022 is finished. The cut was made at four over par and 75 players are going into the weekend.

14:40

Dustin Johnson finishes the second round with a par. This puts him in 14th place overall at -4. In good company with Phil Mickelson and Tyrrell Hatton.

14:10

Patrick Reed finishes his round with two consecutive birdies to move to -1 for the day and -5 for the tournament. He sits at the 9. rank.

14:00

Dustin Johnson and Matteo Manassero take steps back and up the leaderboard by scoring a birdie each. Johnson moved to the 14. rank and Manassero is back at 9. position.

13:40
Xander Schauffele manages a very good finish. On hole 17 and 18 he plays a bogey each and climbs up to the shared ninth rank.
Meanwhile, Matteo Manassero continues to go downhill. He adds two more bogeys on the second nine to the two bogeys on the first nine. He is currently on his 15th hole.
Dutsin Johnson takes another bogey. Currently only the 16th rank for him.
13:00
Adri Arnaus catches up with Harold Varner III! With a birdie at the 17 he raises his score today to 4-under-par and draws level with the leader.

12:40
Only three holes left for Adri Arnaus. He is just one stroke behind leader Harold Varner III and still has a chance to take the lead.

12:30
Matteo Manassero currently falls back to 6th place. With two bogeys and no birdie, his front nine did not go as desired. Maybe he can now turn the tide on his second nine.
11:40
The wind is picking up, not making it easier for the players of the afternoon session.


11:20
Adri Arnaus making a move. The Spaniard is currently the only player on the course to get closer to Harold Varner III. He is two shots off the lead. Meanwhile “DJ” drops a shot at the 8 hole and falls back to 5 under.
10:40
Tommy Fleetwood has finished his second round at -7. The Englishman stays in contention three shots behind the current leader.
10:17
Harold Varner III sets the new club house target at 10 under par. After an opening 64 (-6) he posts a 66 (-4) on day 2 of the Saudi International 2022.


09:50
Over night leader Matteo Manassero kicks off his second round with a par on hole 10. Can he remain on top of the leaderboard? The Italian felt pretty comfortable after the first round, stating: “It was one of those days in which everything was going my way. I was playing really solid, giving myself a lot of birdie chances, a lot of really short ones, as well. So just got the round going and just felt comfortable. That’s the right word, I guess.”

08:45
Fan favorite Phil Mickelson hitting “bombs” in his unique style.


07:56
Earlier today it was announced that Bryson DeChambeau has withdrawn from the Saudi International 2022 due to an injury of his left wrist and hip. The US Open winner has mentioned problems with his left wrist continously over the last couple of weeks.
07:32

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The Sportswashing Spectacle Saudi International: High Time for Hypocrites

Well, there you go. At least Jason Kokrak has the guts to freely explain why he is taking part in the Saudi International. Kokrak is very open to a Super Golf League financed by the Kingdom of the Persian Gulf: “I want to make as much money as possible in as short a time as possible. Cash is king.” Blunt, unsparing, thank you! Finally someone says it. He doesn’t hide behind phrases and empty words. He does not disguise with either defiant coarseness or convoluted reasons why for millionaires money is more important than morals.

“The players take bloody money”

The fourth edition of the sports-washing spectacle called Saudi International has just begun. It takes place at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in the test-tube King Abdullah Economic City. Since 2019, this special week in the desert has become high time for hypocrites.

Every year, Dustin Johnson and his fellow players hire themselves out for horrendous entry fees as willing puppets of the Riyadh regime to add glitz and glamour to golf and wash the ugly stains of murder, human rights violations and multiple abuses off the waistcoat of Saudi Arabia’s international reputation.

“The players should be aware that they are taking bloody money,” wrote the “Washington Post” some time ago, directly affected by the murder of its employee Jamal Khashoggi*. He received attacks on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the man behind the machinations.

“Sport is always political”

Not only the pampered protagonists don’t care. Moreover, there are more helpers from the PGA and DP World Tour this year than ever before. To go far and beyond, the chorus of excuses almost becomes a cacophony. At the top of the hit list of lazy phrases is “I’m not a politician”, alternatively “I’m not here for politics, I’m here to play golf”.

As if the decision in favour of the tournament alone were not a political statement. “Sport is always political,” says Prof. Dr. Carlo Masala, Chair of International Politics at the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Neubiberg. Dr. Masala explains it in the ARD documentary “Spiel mit dem Feuer – Wer braucht noch dieses Olympia?” (engl. Playing with Fire – Who Needs the Olympics?). Under this title, the former slalom star and today’s TV alpine skiing expert Felix Neureuther asked active athletes, scientists and officials on the occasion of the Winter Games in Beijing. The Winter Games 2022 begind tomorrow and they are not less controversial.

“I’ll take every advantage”

Bryson DeChambeau, for one, loves the “I’m not a politican” slogan. So does Shane Lowry, who moreover drags his family into his excuses: “I’m just trying to take care of them as best I can. This is part of that.” One almost wants to feel sorry for the Irishman who is obviously plagued by existential needs.

Even Kokrak, who incidentally has made it to a career prize money of just over $19 million so far, a million more than Lowry, sugarcoats his relentless bluntness: “I’ll take any advantage I can to give my kids a good start in life.”

“Growing the Game” At the expense of human rights

Of course, the reference to the contribution to the development of golf cannot be omitted; “Growing the Game” is number two on the scale of tried and tested euphemisms. The aforementioned Jason Kokrak has therefore let himself represent Golf Saudi as an ambassador. The media asked about his attitude to the grievances. However, Kokrak explains in all seriousness that he is not a government ambassador, so he has nothing to do with it. “I am paid to grow the game on a global level, not to represent the government or similar institutions.”

“Human rights responsibility of sport”

Are you serious? As a reply, Martin Klein, representative for international sports policy of the association “Athletes Germany”, is quoted here: “Human rights apply universally. That has little to do with politics.” And: “Being politically neutral does not mean tacitly accepting human rights violations [โ€ฆ] and even legitimising them with this silence.” With passivity and ignorance, one “possibly makes oneself a collaborator.” Klein expressed this to Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) and others also in connection with the Olympics and the role of the IOC, but stressed the fundamental “human rights responsibility of sport”.

Rory McIlroy and the moral questions

Now some will cry again and insist that athletes do not necessarily have to be role models, and point the finger at other sports in a fine “whataboutism”. These are neither shy nor scrupulous about getting involved with questionable friends from the totalitarianism and autocracy department – see IOC and China, FIFA and Qatar or Formula 1 and Riyadh. And that such things are commonplace nowadays anyway and result hard to avoid.

Even Rory McIlroy admits the problem: “We are all long past the point where moral issues alone are the deciding factor. What you do, where you go and who you meet – aligning everything with morals and principles makes life extremely difficult,” muses the Northern Irishman. “There is not only black or white, but also a lot of shades of grey. I’ve thought about it a lot and wrestled with myself for a long time: If you only take the hard line, you will hardly be able to do what you want to do.”

How about a clear statement, then?

Nevertheless, he says no to the Saudi International and to a Super Golf League of Saudi Arabia’s dollar grace, “because I don’t like where the money comes from”. Just like the British tennis star Andy Murray, by the way, who refuses all opulent offers for show matches for the same reason. See Washington Post and “bloody money”. It works.

But if solid players like Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia or Xander Schauffele don’t have the backbone to resist the siren song of the Saudis… How about at least making a clear announcement? Why not simply address the grievances as a mature athlete?.

Formula One hero Lewis Hamilton did it during the PS circus’ recent visit to Saudi Arabia: “I don’t feel comfortable here because I really believe that everyone should have human rights, freedom of speech and freedom of movement, and this is one of the places where that is not allowed. However, unfortunately I don’t have a choice because motorsport has now chosen this scenario.”

Symbiosis of Gage and “Grow the Game”

Or – even better – actually donate part of the fee to golf development, let deeds speak instead of permanently singing the mantra that has long been used ad nauseam. “Grow the Game”: Ideally with the establishment or promotion of a training academy for girls. That would be something. As if a million or two mattered to the already saturated stars.

Didn’t Bryson DeChambeau recently say that he had enough money anyway, that he could stop playing golf and do something else that he enjoyed? We have an idea, and we’d like it to be scientific. Maybe DeChambeau didn’t do the math right this time at the Saudi International of how much harm they cause.

But no, instead the mongrels wrote the muzzle directly on their hay licence and rake in as much dough as they can get. Hush money, that is. Or: What goes around comes around.

Mickelson’s Alibi Argumentation

And then Phil Mickelson comes along yesterday and even tries to give the obvious a legal basis. He said he was looking around for other competition opportunities. Mickelson felt short-changed with regard to his media rights, the right to his own image. “It was the disgusting greed of the PGA Tour that opened the door to all the recent deviant efforts,” rants the man who is worth around 800 million dollars, not least because it was the PGA Tour that commissioned his appearances and thus made him and himself attractive to sponsors.

For decades, this was part of the deal, “Lefty” played along happily, recently even claimed the lion’s share of the popularity bonuses offered as part of the Player Impact Program – and now the self-employed entrepreneur Mickelson is stylising the Tour as an exploitative villain because all this is suddenly supposed to have a bad taste. Really? What an absurd alibi.

Lack of a compass for moderation

If the six-time major winner is so interested in personal rights, he should think hard about not jumping out of the frying pan into the fire with the Saudis. But at least he doesn’t have to worry about the rights of his wife Amy and his daughters. They certainly won’t move to Riyadh just because daddy might soon make his pockets even fuller in the Formula 1 format and will have to dance to Greg Norman’s tune. So much for crooked enemy stereotypes.

It is simply ridiculous what the professionals use to justify their greed for money. Some of them seem to have lost their compass for moderation. Or are they simply puppets of their managers who are responsible for making money?. Anyway, what can you expect from people who show solidarity with crude minds like Novak Djokovic or sympathise and party with nefarious bullies like Donald Trump.

In contrast, Lee Westwood almost becomes likeable again, who confesses with simple frankness: “If someone my age offers me 50 million dollars for a few more years of tournament golf, then I don’t rack my brains about it for long.” For this chance, the 48-year-old Englishman would even throw overboard his ambitions to be European Ryder Cup captain, “because even in the medium term I still see my future on rather than off the fairways”.

Watson and the definition of “bi-God”

Bubba Watson’s drivel, on the other hand, is downright unbearable. He travels to Saudi Arabia in order to enjoy God’s beautiful creation in this corner of the world, the professed Christian babbles. The only question is whether this also includes the rubble with which adulterers or homosexuals are stoned to death in the name of Sharia law. The man from Baghdad – in Florida – is so religious that his spirit and his sanctimonious claptrap are enough for two deities: the All-Father above in heaven and the idol Mammon here on earth. Bi-god, that is.

For Bubba, who is a Bible-believer, the Old Testament was obviously not enough. He would do well to read the part of the “Exodus” in the Second Book of Moses that deals with Moses’ wrath and Yahweh’s retribution because the people strayed from the right path and danced around the golden calf at the brightly blazing fire (fed by oil?).

To conclude with the end of Giovanni Trapattoni’s famous rage speech: Habe fertig! (engl: I am finished)

—————————————————

*Saudi Arabian “Washington Post” journalist Jamal Khashoggi, critical of the regime, was executed and his body dismembered by a hit squad in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul embassy on 2nd October 2018. According to findings by the US Foreign Intelligence Agency (CIA), the murder order came directly from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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Asian Tour announces Saudi sponsored tournament series: England to host

This week, the Asian Tour hosts the Saudi International in Saudi Arabia. Lured by big entry fees, some high-profile players like Phil Mickelson and Xander Schauffele are competing at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. Now the Asian Tour, funded by LIV Golf Investments, is announcing an international tournament series for 2022/23. A tournament will also be held in England.

Asian Tour tournament series starts in Thailand

The “International Series” consists of ten tournaments and will start in Thailand next March. In June, the tournament series will even move to England to the Centurion Club, which is located near London. The tournament series is financed by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund and is to receive a total subsidy of 300 million dollars from this fund. This info was announced by former world number one Greg Norman at the Saudi International this week, and he is also rumored to be the chairman for the “International Series.”

“International Series” in conflict with PGA and DP World Tour.

This week’s Saudi International and the accompanying high entry fees for participants already caused unrest on the other tours. While the DP World Tour finally allowed the participation for its members, the PGA Tour set up obligations to be met in case of participation. Thus, some well-known players, including players such as defending champion Dustin Johnson or Phil Mickelson will start in Saudi Arabia. The “International Series” could also cause conflicts between the professional tours. The tournament in England will take place just one week before the start of the US Open, which could possibly lead to preparation difficulties for participants should they wish to take part in both tournaments.

Plans for the future criticized


LIV Golf Investment is also behind the planned Saudi Super League. The $300 million partnership with the Asian Tour indicates that plans for this Super League are becoming more concrete, with the tournament series on the Asian Tour as a possible initial test run. Such a “Super League,” as well as participation in the Saudi Internationals, has been heavily criticized publicly because of Saudi Arabia’s very poor human rights record.

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Golfers excuse themselves at the Saudi International: “I’m not a politician”.

This week, the Saudi International takes place for the first time under the umbrella of the Asian Tour and at the same time gathers the strongest field of players in tournament history in Jeddah. Why many of the PGA Tour players will make the long journey to Saudi Arabia should be clear to most. It is said that the players receive up to seven-figure sums just for playing. Of course, no one wants to say this publicly. Instead, the question arises year after year: For what reason do the players make such an effort?

The “Growing Game”. Real or just a politically correct discourse?

For a long time, “Growing the Game” was at the top of answers list, including both men and women, especially while the tournament was under the patronage of DP World, formerly the European Tour. In fact, that was the excuse that fit perfectly with the narrative of the global tour. Besides, the core mission was to revitalise the sport through new formats and venues, and surely the Growing Game speech looked ideal from the outside in.

New PR strategy at Saudi International

The DP World Tour has let itself off the hook by not renewing contract with the Saudis. Meanwhile, they seek for a minimum level of respect for the Saudi International. Also, it is convenient to the DP World Tour to keep the hurdles low for the big golf stars by buying into the Asian Tour. That this is but a step towards the long-awaited Saudi Super League of our own is obvious to many. Especially after the announcement of the series of ten tournaments that belong to the Asian Tour, which is sponsored by LIV Golf Investements.

The PGA Tour’s already elaborate defence strategy of denying participation to its players for lack of membership has now been breached. The way is paved for golf’s stars, but not entirely unrestricted. So what will be the new “I make a lot of money and voluntarily disregard human rights violations” this year? Shane Lowry tells us, and so does does Bryson DeChambeau.

The perfect excuse: “I’m not a politician.”

As if this fact exempts one from having an opinion or responsibility of one’s own, Lowry and DeChambeau excuse themselves by claiming that they are “not politicians”. Tyrrell Hatton pulls his head out of the noose even more expertly. “I agree with what Shane said,” was their response when Golf Post asked them about human rights and the controversies surrounding the tournament at media events in the run-up to the Saudi International.

When will people finally start speaking out?

In other words, the participants are still shying away from a public discussion about the topic. The latest answers at least show more awareness than, for instance, Bubba Watson’s “I like to travel and see other places”. But it only proves that the golfers don’t care as long as there is enough money involved. After all, just like Lowry says: “I’m earning a living for myself and my family and trying to provide for them. This is just part of it.” After earning over โ‚ฌ16 million in prize money, an unconvincing argument to the least.

The other side of the coin: Golf boost.

There is no denying that the Saudis’ investment gives golf a decent boost. Apart from the efforts at home, the question is justified to what extent the PGA Tour’s record prize money, the strategic alliance with the European Tour, as well as its cooperation with DP World, and the increase in prize money, were triggered by the developments around the possible competition of a Saudi Super League or even a Premier Golf League. According to the motto “competition stimulates business”.

On the other hand, press conferences and marketing before the Saudi International are the best example of “sportswashing” in action. Instead of legitimate critical questions, it’s all about superficial matters. There is more attention going into the last Christmas, and the upcoming Netflix documentary, among other topics. Not to mention how beautiful the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, venue of the Saudi International, is. Not only media, but also golf fans alike are fed up. The visibility of the Saudi International on English free TV has grown a lot. However, despite the multiple other sport press conferences, no one is speaking out.

Considerably more honorable to be straight up

National Club golfer Alex Perry is not entirely wrong. “We’d have a lot more respect for you guys if you’d just say you’re only doing it for the money. We can all relate to that. You are not politicians, but you are human beings.”

In contrast, Jason Kokrak, is an ambassador for Saudi Golf. Kokrak comes across as downright refreshing with his brutal honesty: “Money makes the world go round. If someone pays me enough money so that my children’s children have an advantage in life, then I’ll take full advantage of it.”