The Saudi International is a fairly new tournament on the European Tour, having first been played in 2019. The tournament’s addition to the calendar has courted some controversy, though hefty appearance fees have been enough to attract many of the world’s top players to compete.
The event takes place at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club, which is located in the King Abdullah Economic City, a development to the north of Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea.
The inaugural tournament was won by American Dustin Johnson who followed up the next year finishing second to Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell. Johnson then made it two wins in three tournaments with a repeat victory in 2021.
Next Played: TBD
Next years tournament dates have not been scheduled yet. We'll update this page with more information as we have it.
Last Played: February 2021
- Winner: Dustin Johnson
- To Par / Margin: -15 / 2 Strokes
|Royal Greens G&CC||King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia||7,010 Yards||$3,500,000|
The design of Royal Greens Golf and Country Club was overseen by Dave Sampson for European Golf Design. They are involved in the design of many new golf courses around the world which eventually host European Tour events but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this was designed to be a serious test of the world’s best golfers.
Royal Greens is a par 72 for its members but at 7,010 yards would be almost ludicrously short for that par when the European Tour rolls into town. Therefore, two of the par fives have been cut to par fours but that still provides only limited defence to the overall score in relation to par.
The straightforward nature of the course plays into the hands of the power hitters who will be able to turn many holes into the stereotypical ‘drive and a flick’. That was exactly how Dustin Johnson did it when winning the inaugural event with a score of -19 two years ago and we really don’t see it being any different this time around.
That said, Graeme McDowell was able to win last year despite being one of the shorter hitters on tour as he was able to dig in and play some smart, defensive golf when the wind whipped up off the Red Sea in the final round. The wind is forecast to be at its strongest on Thursday so there may be a bit of luck involved in getting on the right side of the draw but scoring should improve as the week goes on.
Saudi International Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2021. Tips for next year will be added the week of the tournament.
The Saudi International is the final leg of the Middle East Swing of events which has kicked the European Tour off. Looking at the top of the betting market though you would be forgiven for thinking that this is a PGA Tour even given the likes of Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed have all made the trip to King Abdullah Economic City. It is no secret that Golf Saudi pay some pretty tasty appearance fees and whatever your feelings about this policy, and indeed the issue of sport in this nation in general, it has certainly been to the benefit of the tournament.
The competitive nature of the world’s best golfers is such that they will do all they can to earn a win over their rivals wherever in the world they tee it up. That could make it tough for the European Tour stalwarts in attendance to seriously challenge for the title and it makes sense to expect a number of big names to be in the mix come Sunday.
Dustin Johnson - 5/1
With the greatest respect to Dustin Johnson, he does not come across as a man who is particularly encumbered with doubts about accepting a large appearance fee to play in a controversial tournament. Johnson is a competitor at heart and doesn’t put too much stock in worrying about things outside of his control. He works very hard on all aspects of his craft to maximise his natural abilities and reaps the rewards.
The most recent of those awards was the green jacket he won at the rescheduled 2020 Masters. While many of his competitors were worrying about the way Augusta National would play in November compared to April, Johnson got out there with his caddie and brother Austin and concentrated on his game.
That was the approach he took when winning the first edition of the Saudi International. It helps that Royal Greens is a golf course that plays to Johnson’s strengths. His excellence off the tee and with his wedges will continue to be rewarded this year just as it was last year when only Graeme McDowell finished ahead of him.
The field may be stronger than ever but Johnson is better than ever and after shaking off his post Masters hangover (both literally and figuratively) he is ready to start winning again so is the right favourite at 5/1 at a course that so obviously suits him.
Tony Finau - 16/1
Tony Finau’s inability to turn his sole PGA Tour win into multiple successes is an oft-repeated discussion among golf fans. Just how can a player with such an incredible ability and who gets himself into contention so often have failed to win more than just the Puerto Rico Open, a mere alternate event?
Like Johnson, you don’t get the feeling that Finau thinks about this sort of thing as much as golf fans do. That’s not to say that he is not a thoughtful man or than he doesn’t crave more success, just that he is unwilling to let the quest for a second PGA Tour win overcome him.
It would raise a chuckle among many if Finau were able to beat so many PGA Tour stars this week and yet not earn a PGA Tour win. That is a distinct possibility however with Finau well priced at general odds of 16/1 that are definitely worth an each way play. The 31-year-old arrives in Saudi having finished fourth and second in his last two starts and should have no problem working out how to score well at Royal Greens on his tournament debut.
Thomas Pieters - 50/1
Thomas Pieters has had other things on his mind than golf lately. The big Belgian has had to cope with a broken finger having tripped over at home but in much happier news he is a new father and has spoken about how much he has enjoyed his new life at home with his daughter, Florence.
One of the truisms of golf betting is that it makes sense to bet on players who have recently become dads. The ‘nappy factor’ is a light hearted way of explaining the pressure that some feel to step up and earn some big cheques to provide for their family. Another take on the same phenomenon is that in actual fact the pressure is off and with a child providing more perspective, a new parent is freer to play their best golf. Either way, there certainly seems to be a bit of truth in the theory.
Pieters is already a multiple European Tour winner and a wealthy young man but having a child could still do very good things for his game. For one, it will give him a new perspective which should help control the anger which has boiled over at times on the course.
If he is able to harness his ability, Pieters will go on to win many more times and he should be a factor this week on a course which plays to his strengths. He finished third here last year and has a similar game to DJ and so makes each way appeal at the very big price of 50/1.
Saudi International Recent Winners
|Year||Winner||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2021||Dustin Johnson||-15||2 Strokes|
|2020||Graeme McDowell||-12||2 Strokes|
|2019||Dustin Johnson||-19||2 Strokes|
About the Saudi International
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most influential countries. It’s the second largest country in the Arabian world, the largest economy in the Middle East and has influence in all manner of different aspects of global politics, thanks largely to its huge role in the oil industry.
It’s fair to say that Saudi is lacking in certain areas of culture such as sport. In an attempt to rectify that, diversity its economy and to change the perception of the Kingdom, the Saudi government has invested vast amounts of money into sponsoring, owning and hosting major sporting events and institutions. Over the past few years this has really been ramped up, with Anthony Joshua’s world heavyweight bout in 2019 perhaps the jewel in the crown.
Golf already had strong links with the region and so was an obvious addition to the Saudi’s burgeoning sporting calendar. The European Tour is one of many sporting bodies who have recently developed ties with Saudi Arabia, doing so chiefly with the establishment in 2019 of a brand new tournament, the Saudi International.
Jointly hosted by the European Tour and Golf Saudi (the body responsible for growing the game nationally) the Saudi International has wasted no time in announcing itself and hopes remain high that it will develop into one of the tour’s premier events in the coming years. There are hurdles to overcome but with money essentially no object it seems likely this event will grow and grow.
With the first tournament being held in 2019 it is a little early to speak about trends. That said, Dustin Johnson won the inaugural event and then came second a year later, so he’s clearly one to watch. If that makes you think big-hitting is essential, it’s worth noting that Graeme McDowell won in 2020 and he’s no bomber.
The tournament is part of the Desert Swing (Middle East Swing to some) and plays quite similarly to other events in this part of the calendar. The wind can certainly play a part in these competitions so keeping a close eye on the forecast is certainly wise and blustery conditions certainly helped McDowell in the second edition of this nascent golf tournament.
Big Stars Lend Their Support
Getting a professional golf tournament off the ground is no easy undertaking. The challenge was all the greater in Saudi Arabia given that the country has no golfing history to speak of. What they do have, however, is a vast amount of money and access to some of the finest minds in the golfing industry.
The Saudi International is organised by the global sports events and management company, IMG. They host a plethora of other big tournaments on the European Tour and so know exactly what it takes to put on a successful event. That would be for nothing were it not for the excellent facilities and prize money available at the Saudi International.
The tournament takes place at the world class Royal Greens Golf and Country Club. The course, which was designed by European Golf Design (a joint enterprise between the European Tour and IMG) was opened in 2017 and is a very good test of golf. It’s also visually stunning, set alongside the Red Sea. The course is matched by an incredibly high spec clubhouse and practice facilities, which were designed with the future of Saudi golf in mind.
The quality of everything that goes into the event is matched by the quality of the players who have made the trip to Saudi Arabia. With appearance fees reportedly as high a $3 million for the biggest stars, it is little surprise that players of the calibre of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed, Henrik Stenson, Bryson DeChambeau and Ian Poulter played in just the first two editions.
Many other big names have resisted the appeal of playing in the Saudi International and therefore avoided the criticism which has come the way of those who have competed. The country’s record on human rights and other issues leaves a lot to be desired but then the same could be said of many countries, including the likes of China, Turkey, Russia and, indeed, the USA. Many argue that sport can shine a spotlight on a nation and help it improve, while others argue that sport and politics are entirely different entities.
No matter where you stand on this issue, this certainly looks an event that is here to stay. Golf Saudi is intent on growing golf in the Kingdom for decades to come, and they have no problem leaning on the stars of the present to give their new tournament a boost.