LIV Tour

Saudi International: Abraham Ancer continues to dominate the leaderboard

On the second day, Abraham Ancer remains in first place at the Saudi International. Behind the LIV player is one of the few PGA Tour players in the field, Cameron Young, just one stroke behind. Sharing 3rd place are Marc Leishman, Louis Oosthuizen and Sadom Kaewkanjana. The tournament in Jeddah is again hosted by the Asian Tour, but is unofficially almost considered a LIV Golf event, no wonder many LIV Golf Series players use the event as their season opener.

LIV golf elite miss the cut

A number of LIV golfers are among the big names competing, but not all can take advantage of the season opener. Cam Smith, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau are about to miss the cut. With above-par scores among all four players, it won’t be enough for two more rounds at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club. At least Mickelson announced in the run-up that he was in top form and wanted to really get going again this year. Bryson DeChambeau faced a big change this week. The longtime Cobra player teed it up with the TaylorMade Stealth Plus 2 driver instead of his usual Cobra driver. The reason for that, however, is just the expiring contract and current renegotiations with the brand. Meanwhile, the “Hulk” is probably trying his hand at other drivers.

Things are looking good for Bernd Wiesberger at the moment. The Austrian could improve with five birdies and only two bogeys and climbs into the top 20. Also on the shared 19th place is LIV-colleague Brooks Koepka, he holed the same round of 67 as Wiesberger.
Defending champion Harold Varner III topped Wiesberger’s performance by one stroke and is now just outside the top ten. Sergio Garcia, meanwhile, was unable to repeat his strong performance from Day 1 and drops back to 11th place with an even par round on Day 2. Patrick Reed also joins the ranks. The American and “Ace” teammate of Dustin Johnson holed out for a two-under round of 68.

PGA Tour

240 million dollar offer and tour break: Bryson DeChambeau clears up rumours

In the past few weeks, various rumours have been circulating about the American Bryson DeChambeau. The offer for a move to the Saudi Golf League is said to have been significantly increased and DeChambeau has announced that he no longer wants to play on the PGA Tour. Last Monday, the Major winner posted a statement in which he tried to clarify his current situation.

Bryson DeChambeau: “This is just another erroneous report”

At the recent Waste Management Phoenix Open, Charley Hoffman caused a stir by getting upset with the PGA Tour via Instagram after the second day. Hofmann collected two penalty strokes for what he considered a correct drop on the water and accused the PGA Tour of a “lack of responsibility” and “lack of protection for players”. Among other pros, Bryson DeChambeau also reacted to Hoffman’s strong criticism and commented that he wholeheartedly agreed. In addition, rumours surfaced that DeChambeau’s offer for a move to the Saudi Golf League had been increased to over $200 million. “That’s just another erroneous report,” the 28-year-old countered the rumour mill surrounding his person.

DeChambeau justifies tour break with injury

Furthermore, it was reported on the golf podcast “No Laying Up” that DeChambeau had apparently said at the Saudi International that he would not play on the PGA Tour again. “The information that I know from very reputable sources is the current state of affairs,” No Laying Up confirmed. DeChambeau’s cancellation for this week’s Genesis Invitational further fuelled the rumour of his move to the Saudi League. But Bryson DeChambeau also addressed his current break in his latest statement, stressing that he is in the process of healing his hand and hip injuries. The two injuries also forced the Major winner to pull out of the Saudi International. “Any news about my health or my game plan will come directly from me and my team,” the 28-year-old added, concluding by mentioning that he was looking forward to being back soon and seeing everyone again.

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Highlights Tours

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.


Day 3 of the Saudi International 2022 LIVE


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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 and  three strokes in front of Cam Smith.


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


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.


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!


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.


Not bad at all!


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.


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!


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.


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!


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


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.
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.

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.

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.
The wind is picking up, not making it easier for the players of the afternoon session.

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.
Tommy Fleetwood has finished his second round at -7. The Englishman stays in contention three shots behind the current leader.
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.

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.”

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

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.

Panorama Top Tours

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 […] 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.

Live Panorama Top Tours

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 €16 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.”

European Tour

European Tour: Fox beats fading light to take Saudi lead

Round two report

Ryan Fox posted his second consecutive round of 65 after just beating the fading light to lead the weather-affected second round of the Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers.

The New Zealander was among the afternoon starters whose rounds suffered a two hour delay due to a rare bout of rain and lightning at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, but he carded six birdies when play eventually got back underway. He dropped his only shot of the day on the last hole, but made it safely back into the impressive clubhouse on ten under par just before darkness fell.

Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher will resume his second round also on that mark, with the Ryder Cup player facing six more holes to play on Saturday. He posted three birdies and one bogey on his front nine and three straight pars after the turn.

England’s Andy Sullivan (66) and Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger (68) are two shots back on eight under par along with Sweden’s Marcus Kinhult and World Number One Dustin Johnson who have two and four holes remaining respectively. Johnson carded back-to-back birdies just before the suspension to keep on course to extend his impressive record in the event, having won the inaugural edition in 2019 and finished runner up 12 months ago.

Ryder Cup player Tommy Fleetwood (65) and Scotland Callum Hill (68) are in the clubhouse on seven under par, with former World Number One Justin Rose, overnight leader David Horsey and France’s Victor Perez all set to resume their rounds on Saturday also three shots off the pace.

MeanwhileNorway’s Viktor Hovland once again underlined his Ryder Cup credentials in the presence of one of Europe’s legendary players, Ian Poulter, carding a four under par 66  to move to six under.

(Text: European Tour Communications)

European Tour

European Tour: DJ ready to rock in Saudi

World Number One Dustin Johnson is excited to get started at the Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers, as the American targets a second title at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, a maiden victory of 2021 and a seventh successive winning season.

The 36-year-old won the inaugural Saudi International two years ago and finished runner-up to Graeme McDowell on his title defence in 2020, so he is brimming with confidence heading into his second event of the season and first on the Race to Dubai.

Patrick Reed, meanwhile, arrives in Saudi Arabia in flying form having sealed a five-stroke victory last week at the PGA TOUR’s Farmers Insurance Open. The World Number Ten is yet to win in the Middle East but a top three finish at last December’s DP World Tour Championship, Dubai will give him confidence of a maiden regular European Tour win.

Phil Mickelson finished in a share of third place at last year’s Saudi International and the 50-year-old is a fan of the layout at Royal Greens, as is Norwegian star Viktor Hovland – whose runner-up finish in Florida last week elevated him to a career-high 12th in the Official World Golf Ranking.

What the players are saying…

Dustin Johnson: “It’s a golf course that I thought set up well for me. I like the golf course. It’s a fun course to play. Obviously I’ve had success here the last two years and I enjoy it. It’s been a great week. I think they do a great job hosting this event, and obviously this year, we’ve got a great field. I was excited to come back.

“It’s a golf course where you have to drive it well. I mean, you have got a lot of slope in them so you need to be able to control your ball coming into it. But if you drive it well, you can definitely make a lot of birdies just because you can get some short clubs in your hand.

“But I think it’s very important to drive it well here, especially with the rough. Got quite a bit of rough. But there are only two par fives – if you drive it in the fairway, you can reach them, and there are quite a few short holes. Like I said, you’ve got to drive it well, and felt like I drove it well here the last couple years and that’s why I’ve had success.”

Patrick Reed: “It’s awesome to come over here. The support that this event has and the support that Saudi has given the players, as well as just the Tour, is amazing. For us, coming over and playing and having a golf course that’s continuously gotten better and better each year, and the hospitality is amazing. It’s one of these places you really look forward to coming to and playing.

“For me, it’s always fun coming over and playing on The European Tour. Get away from my comfort zone at home. Now being able to come over, it’s almost making me feel comfortable coming over and play on The European Tour. It’s one of these things that I call my second home, and to be able to come over and play and support both tours for me means a lot.”

Phil Mickelson: “I think that it’s really a fun golf course to play. I enjoyed it last year. Condition is a 10 out of 10. I don’t think you can get it anymore approximately manicured and set up for an event.

“So it’s very impressive the way the golf course is conditioned, the way it plays. It’s really a fun challenge and when the wind comes up, it’s very playable. I just really enjoy the golf course and enjoy playing here.”

Viktor Hovland: “It’s been a long trip obviously but I’m glad to be over here. I had a good week last week in San Diego. And just trying to look to continue to build on that. I feel like my game is in great shape and I’ve just got to get adjusted and get ready to start off the week.

“It’s fairly generous off the tee but you still have to drive it pretty well just to get into some good spots where you can be aggressive. I feel like the scores are going to be pretty low this week. The greens are really good. So if you’re hitting the ball close, you can make a lot of putts and make a lot of birdies.

“But the wind picks up at all, it’s going to be interesting. A couple of par threes are pretty solid and some water here and there, as well. So you’ve got to be conservative maybe on some holes and you can attack more on others.”                                                                

European Tour

McDowell ready to build momentum in Saudi Arabia

Tournament Preview

Defending champion Graeme McDowell is aiming to recapture the momentum he built up last season when he tees it up once again at the Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers.

The Major winner got his 2020 season off to the perfect start with victory at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, but admits he struggled to recapture that form when he returned to action after the enforced break due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Northern Irishman will face a stern challenge in his bid to hold on to his title, with a field including World Number One, 2019 winner and reigning Masters Tournament champion Dustin Johnson as well as fellow Major winners Bryson DeChambeau, Shane Lowry, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.

Also challenging McDowell for further desert success are the last two winners on the ‘Middle East Swing’ – his fellow Ryder Cup stars Tyrrell Hatton and Paul Casey, who both make their debut in King Abdullah Economic City.

World Number Seven Hatton became the joint most successful Rolex Series player when he sealed his fourth victory and his sixth overall on the European Tour at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship to continue his impressive advance up the Official World Golf Ranking.

Meanwhile Paul Casey is seeking to continue his own upward trajectory after sealing his 15th European Tour title at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday.

Player quotes

Graeme McDowell: “First time here last year. Nice, windy track. Good golf course. Great facilities here. It fit my eye pretty well and it was really important to me at the time. Got me back in the top-50 in the world and got me into Augusta and opened a lot of doors for me.

“I felt like I was starting to get a little bit of a head of steam up and starting to create some nice momentum and move into the right direction and obviously that momentum didn’t get a chance to last very long unfortunately. I didn’t respond well when we came back in the summer.

“But always nice to come back to a golf course where you have great memories. And like I say, I would love to get some of that momentum back again this week. That would be really, really awesome.”

Tyrrell Hatton: “It’s obviously good to be here for the first time. I went and played nine holes today and that was the first time seeing the golf course. Pretty impressed with what I saw. It’s in fantastic shape. Speaking to a few guys before coming here, they said it does kind of get quite windy, so I was expecting the greens to be a little slower than what we are used to.

“I’ve been fortunate to win four times in the last 14 months. And all four of them were big events, and they carry big World Ranking points. Outside of those wins, I’ve still had a few top fives, top tens, and just going about my business, just trying to play good golf every single week.

“Obviously this week, we’ve got huge World Ranking points on offer. It’s an added incentive, I guess. A little bit more motivation. But also we’ve got Ryder Cup points to play for. So, there’s plenty of things this week that you’re motivated for, and it will certainly be a great event to have a really good week. Obviously I’ll be trying my best to do that, and looking forward to getting started on Thursday.”

Paul Casey: “Cracking-looking golf course. So here to try and play and beat an unbelievable field. Even today, learning about some of the guys who were here this week. I’m not one necessarily to look at entry lists to see who is playing week-in, week-out, but it’s stacked. We’re going to have huge World Ranking points.

“From what I’ve seen so far, I really like it. So, I if anything, I feel good, and what I’ve seen so far, there’s a lot of touch putting required around this golf course, and I’m a great touch putter. It’s probably the key to the victory last week on those difficult greens.

“There’s no reason why I can’t have a really good week and put myself in a position to challenge. It’s not like there’s a massive time difference from last week, either. So there’s a lot of things in my favour to try and back up last week’s performance.”

(Text: European Tour Press Release)

Team USA

European Tour: Patrick Reed Talks Presidents Cup, Masters and New Tour Ahead of The Saudi International

PGA Tour professional and Masters champion Patrick Reed addresses the media ahead of the Saudi International, touching on subjects ranging from thoughts on the new proposed golf tour and his presidents cup experience.

European Tour: Patrick Reed addresses the media prior to round one of the Saudi International

THE MODERATOR: We would like to welcome world No. 12 Patrick Reed here to the Saudi International.

Patrick, you played in the inaugural event last year. Tell us, how does it feel to return?

PATRICK REED: Yeah, really enjoyed it last year, and look forward to playing it today obviously. I’m very excited to be back. I absolutely enjoyed the time I had here last year, and aside from hole No. 18, I played the golf course pretty well. Hopefully I can get back to playing well and just master that 18th hole.

THE MODERATOR: Tell us a little bit about what happened on the 18th hole.

PATRICK REED: On the weekend, I hit the fairway both times. I walked off with a 10 and a 6. You know, whenever you do something like that, it definitely obviously kills your round, especially on a reachable par 5.

I think the biggest thing now is to learn from those mistakes and if I continue on the trend, since Saturday was a 10 and Sunday was a 6, that means I’m improving four shots each time, so hopefully I have two this week.

THE MODERATOR: You haven’t been out playing yet, so today will be your first look?

PATRICK REED: Correct. I walked around a little bit yesterday whenever I got here, kind of keep my legs moving. Just walking out around the golf course a little bit, it looks perfect. I practised a good bit yesterday on the practise facilities. The putting greens are rolling nice and quick. Yeah, we look forward to it.

THE MODERATOR: Yesterday, at your request, you went back to visit a school you were at last year. Can you tell us about why you wanted to go back and how it was?

PATRICK REED: It was unbelievable, going over to the World Academy, and spending time with the kid last year was a trip. Just the support they gave myself and the support they had for the tournament, for a lot of them coming out and watching the golf tournament meant a lot to me, meant a lot to what I’ve always wanted to do, and that’s to grow the game. Because of that, when I decided to come back this year, there was no doubt I was going to go over there and spend time with the kids and just enjoy my time.

THE MODERATOR: And you shipped some gifts over for them, as well.

PATRICK REED: We did. We gave them a some gear and tee shirts. The kids love it and hopefully I see them walking around later this week.

Q. The teacher who was with them watching you play, they asked the teacher, “Are we allowed to clap,” because they had not a clue whether they could clap?
PATRICK REED: So last year, they didn’t really know what they could or couldn’t do because golf was so new to a lot of the kids. You know, last year, they were great, the kids that came out. The support they gave, they caught on pretty quickly on when to clap, when not to clap, etc. It’s just awesome to see the interest, coming out and watch and trying to learn something new and something different.

Q. It’s been a difficult few weeks, and you then go to a place like that where eyes are lighting up; what does that mean to you personally?
PATRICK REED: It means a lot. You know, when I first turned professional, it was live and breathe golf. You know, I didn’t have children of my own, and you know, your attitude was determined by how you’ve played on the golf course. You either had a good day because — you had a good day on the golf course or your day wasn’t that great, how you played.

Once I started having children, it just put golf in perspective. When I want to leave the golf course, didn’t matter whether it was a good day or a bad day. Just coming home and seeing your kids puts everything in perspective. You forget about golf. Just want to hang out with them.

Any time I can go and hang out with kids around the world and try to grow the game of golf and get away from the game, it’s awesome. And then to be able to tie golf back into it and try to teach them about golf or something different, it’s always a lot of fun.

Q. Because you play so much on The European Tour, you don’t get Ryder Cup points for this. Do you think it’s something that The PGA of America should look at; that somehow as a European Tour member, you play and get some points on some list?
PATRICK REED: I think it’s something that we definitely need to look into. You know, because at the end of the day, all of us want to grow the game of golf, want to improve golf worldwide, not just in our own countries. For me, it would help for sure because I play everywhere.

At the end of the day, we know what the criterias are ahead of time, so you kind of set up schedules for that. With you for me I’ve always wanted to be a worldwide player, so it’s not going it deter me coming overseas playing. I absolutely love the time I’ve spent on The European Tour and to come over here and play in these events, it means a lot to me.

Q. Obviously last time around for the Masters, you were defending. Now you come in, differently. No pressure on you with regards to the defending part. So how do you approach this time around and do you approach it any differently?
PATRICK REED: Well, I think now I’ll just get back to playing my regular schedule on how I prepared and the schedule I had during the week of the tournament.

Last year, being my first defence of a major and not really knowing what to expect, you know, on obligations, things that come up throughout the week, it was a learning experience for me. I felt like I didn’t have my full focus on actual golf, and you know, this year, I need to get back to focusing on golf. The good thing is now I know what to expect after winning a major. When that time comes again, I know how to handle it to play the best golf I can to hopefully defend.

Q. I think it’s fair to say that you’ve shown in the last few years quite a thick skin. At the same time, has some of the behavior towards you in the last couple of months concerned you? Have you been upset by some of the behavior?
PATRICK REED: Honestly for me, I try to go out there and play golf day-by-day and live life the way I need to handle myself on and off the golf course, and if I do that, that’s all I can control. I can’t control what people say, what people write or anything like that.

All I can control is what I do, and if I’m happy, I feel like I’m living the right way. That’s what I have to do because at the end the day, you can’t please everyone, and if you allow naysayers or people to write things that are negative to affect you, then it’s going to affect your ultimate goal and that’s to play the best golf we can.

Q. Have some people crossed, though, at the same time?
PATRICK REED: There’s always people that cross the lines. That happens. But those are the things where you just have to keep your head down, keep plugging and continue playing the best golf you can.

Q. At the Presidents Cup, how impressive was Tiger as captain, and if you do get on that Whistling Straits side, how impressive would he be in the team room as a player?
PATRICK REED: Well, he’s always impressive as a player. That’s a given. But then, also, now watching him not only be a captain but being a playing captain, it was very impressive the way he was able to handle everything, when it comes to handling team meetings and talking with the team and managing the team, but at the same time making sure his golf game was where it needed to be. It was very impressive.

You know, it just speaks volumes of how mentally strong Tiger is and how he can compartmentalise different tasks in order to continue playing well that week and not allowing anything to slip by.

Q. What are your thoughts on the new world tour?
PATRICK REED: Obviously I’m here to talk about this week and this awesome event and being over here and playing on The European Tour. I really don’t have any comment for this right now.

Q. You’re the only one that’s come in here that wouldn’t comment about it. Is that because you don’t know enough about it or because —
PATRICK REED: Honestly, it’s because I’m here playing in a golf tournament that I really respect and I really respect playing over here on The European Tour.

I don’t really know enough about it, as well, to really make comments about it.

Q. Can you confirm, too, that you got a letter from Jay Monahan by e-mail?
PATRICK REED: The whole tour has. Every tour has gotten, every player on Tour has gotten an e-mail.

Q. And have you read that e-mail?
PATRICK REED: I actually saw it for the first time last night and I didn’t — I didn’t read it after I got done with my obligations.

Like I said, I don’t know enough about it, and I would need to do a deeper dive to make any comments about it.

Q. You’ve spoken about how crowded the schedule is with The Ryder Cup. How are you going to handle the schedule and the fact that the majors are now compacted in such a small period, and then you’ve got the Olympics and The Ryder Cup?
PATRICK REED: The Olympics is always on my mind. Any way I can go and represent my country, it’s something I’ve always dreamed about and always loved doing. It’s always on my mind, but at the end of the day, to make Ryder Cup teams, to make Olympic teams and things like that, you’ve got to play well.

That’s my biggest focus right now is to play good golf and get myself into position where I can actually make the team. You know, I mean, the condensed schedule, to me, it’s just normal for me. As much as I play and travel around the world, it doesn’t make a difference whether they are spread out through all 12 months or whether they are combined into two months.

Still going to play because I would love to compete and love being out here with the guys and going to battle with them.

Q. Not asking you to comment — you said you respect being here and you don’t want to talk about it, which is fine. But one thing that slightly surprises me — was it a very long e-mail that you didn’t manage to get through it?
PATRICK REED: The reason I didn’t get through it was the jet-lag and everything with flying over and how long the day I had yesterday. By the time I got back to the room, I could barely even, you know, open up my phone.

Literally as I was going back, texting my wife at 9.15 and told her that I love her, was going to bed and literally when I got to the room, TV didn’t even go on. I was asleep at 9.20. For me, it was one of those things that I didn’t think I had the mental capacity and energy to really look through e-mails, read e-mails, etc.

Q. I see. But had you won the equivalent of the lottery or football pools, would you have noted what it said? Everybody seemed to have got this e-mail, but nobody’s got through it. In my mind, I’m seeing a very long and boring e-mail. Maybe it wasn’t.
PATRICK REED: Like I said, I wouldn’t be able to tell you because I didn’t read it yet (laughter). But once I read it, I’ll be able to tell if you it was boring and interesting, etc.

It’s just one of those things with playing last week and traveling overseas and getting here Tuesday and having some obligations to take care of yesterday, I just haven’t really had time to open up and take care of other business.

THE MODERATOR: You also didn’t manage to read the press conference schedule this morning, which was two lines. Just saying. Carry on. Any other questions?

Q. I have a question about there’s three Saudi players here, two amateurs and one turning professional. They talked yesterday about how Tiger was inspirational growing up. How much responsibility to you feel as a role model to inspire others to take up the game — for kids who might never have seen golf before?
PATRICK REED: It’s awesome seeing players from Saudi playing. I hope they play well. Hopefully someone can make the weekend, because it’s a special time to play on the weekend in a golf tournament.

You know, it’s always been part of our responsibility as top players, especially if you travel around the world, to play well and get ourselves in contention and give back and try to grow the game. Because that’s the only way golf is going to grow in the next generation and generations after that is by doing things that Mr. Nicklaus, Player and Palmer did, and the things that Tiger and Phil have done, and now it’s our role with DJ, Brooks being myself, Rory, guys like that, to continue to grow the game, continue to strive and play, play well, and be good role models on and off the golf course in order to allow the game to continue down the panel that we all want it to go.

THE MODERATOR: What was your favourite question from the lads? All the kids asked questions yesterday. My favourite question was, a little by who put his hand up and said, “Do you remember me?” What was your favourite question?

PATRICK REED: My favourite one, wow, there’s so many. There’s just so many. I think it had to do have been — one of the favourite questions/comment, one of the top rows, one of the boys asked, “How many holes in one have you had?”

And I said, “Two.”

“That’s it?” (Laughter).



January 29, 2020

King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Team USA

European Tour: Phil Mickelson Talks 2020 Goals Ahead of The Saudi International

PGA Tour professional Phil Mickelson speaks with the media about his 2020 expectations, the importance of growing the game and even makes a super bowl prediction ahead of the Saudi International.

European Tour: Phil Mickelson speaks with the media prior to the start of the 2020 Saudi International

Q. Your initial impressions of the Royal Greens?
PHIL MICKELSON: It’s a really good golf course, and it’s a challenging test. It’s a fair test. It’s really well done. The greens are really well done. I just think the course is just a great test of golf and a wonderful place to hold the tournament.

The conditions can be difficult, like we saw today with wind, and if that’s the case, it’s really tough test of golf.

Without wind, you can score low, but it’s a really well done golf course that’s very playable in difficult conditions, and yet still challenging in calm conditions.

Q. The growth of the game, how important is it to introduce new countries to the sport?
PHIL MICKELSON: I am excited that there are so many courses planned for this new city. I’m excited to have met a young girl who wants to be the first professional Saudi professional. She seems like she’s driven and motivated, and I love the support that she’s getting.

I care about this game, and to see the excitement level in some of the young kids here, and to see that there are plans for many courses here in this new city, I think that’s really cool.

I love seeing the game grow all over and I love seeing the plans for courses here, and I love seeing kids. I love seeing kids out here; the more we get, the better.

Q. How excited are you about the year ahead and the work you’ve done off the golf course?
PHIL MICKELSON: So I’m very optimistic about what this 2020 brings. I’m more surprised that the first two weeks haven’t gone the way I planned, but I feel like my game is a lot better than it was last year and I just need to be patient. The scores will come.

Q. What do you feel you need to improve?
PHIL MICKELSON: So the practise rounds, like I come out here today, and I drive it great. I hit 11, 12 fairways. I need to do that in the regular tournament. Sometimes I get a little tight and I get a little scary, and I just need to go out and play relaxed, because I want to force the result. Because I know I’m playing well, I try to force the result and I just don’t get the best out of it. I just need to stay patient and it will come.

Q. Some terrible news at the weekend, Kobe Bryant.
PHIL MICKELSON: Man, I think that has hit everybody really hard. Myself and everybody, we just can’t comprehend something like that. Because a guy like that, you think he’s going to live forever, and it just kind of is a reality of what a finite process life is, and it’s really hit everybody hard, especially people that know him.

He’s one of the premiere icons in all of sport, in all of America, and I think many parts of the world, too, as global as basketball has become. I don’t even know what to say. We’re still all shocked at what happened.

Q. What’s your favourite memory of him?
PHIL MICKELSON: Meeting him and spending time with him. One time I was with Amy at a Lakers game and he came over and gave us a hug. That was kind of a moment. He had this way to make you feel so good; that it wasn’t so much the things he said, although he said some incredible things, but it was the way that he made you feel when you were around him.

Q. Super Bowl is this weekend. Your prediction and thoughts on the game?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it’s exciting to have two such evenly matched teams in such an explosive offense that Kansas City has. Historically, a better defense has always won, a team that has thrown as much as Kansas City. But in this instance, there might be a mismatch in the secondary. I think it’s just going to be an exciting game.

Q. Score prediction?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it’s going to be a higher scoring game, 35-31, and I’m not really sure who I’d go with, but I would guess KC.

January 29, 2020

King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports