European Tour

Els joins star-studded field in controversial Saudi event

2019-12-19 11:24
Ernie Els
Ernie Els (Getty Images)

Jeddah - South African golfer and recent Presidents Cup International Team captain Ernie Els has confirmed his return to the Saudi International from January 30 to February 2, 2020.

The event was introduced to the European Tour schedule for the first time last year, several months after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in Istanbul for speaking out against the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman.

As a result, a number of golf fans and writers alike were against some of the world's best golfers competing in the tournament.

Els will, however, line up against world No 1 Brooks Koepka and American duo Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed.

The 'Big Easy' came agonisingly close this month to setting up a historic win for the International team against the USA in Australia but lost 16-14.

The 50-year-old will return to the the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club after making his debut in the event earlier this year.

"I may have just turned 50, but I still want to tee it up against the best players in the world and the way this tournament is shaping up, it will be the biggest field in golf at the start of next year," said Els in a press release.

"I have really enjoyed playing in Saudi Arabia previously. The course was in great condition last time and an extremely enjoyable layout with plenty of birdie opportunities. The Saudi Golf Federation is doing a lot to grow the game in the Kingdom and I am pleased to be part of helping their vision to grow the game."

According to the press release, the South African has made a number of visits to Saudi Arabia in recent years to oversee the development under way in the country - including an appearance as part of a golf industry panel at the Future Investment Initiative event in October.

The Royal Greens Golf & Country Club will host the first Ladies European Tour event in March next year.

Royal Greens Golf & Country Club lies along the spectacular Red Sea coastline and sits amongst a series of stunning residential and recreational facilities.

Yasir Al-Rumayyan, chairperson of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi, said: "Ernie Els is one of the most iconic golfers in the game and to see him play alongside the likes of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka is an incredible opportunity for the people of Saudi Arabia.

"Ernie is a leader in the game and watching how he nearly pulled off a fantastic victory with the International Team last week demonstrates exactly how respected he is. We are excited to welcome him back to help us build golf in the region."

Some of the confirmed list of players:

Ernie Els, Tony Finau, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Shane Lowry, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Henrik Stenson

- Compiled by Lynn Butler


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