Tours to battle over players at Saudi International

Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson

Battle lines were drawn between the PGA & European ( now DP World) Tours with the Asian Tour announcing a total of 24 PGA Tour players, including 11 major winners, as committed to playing in the 2022 Saudi International to be held from Feb 3-6, 2022. The tournament is now sanctioned by the Asian Tour and will continue to be played at  Royal Greens, Jeddah with a purse of US$ 5 million. 

The tournament’s switch to the Asian Tour has set up a confrontation with the PGA and European Tours, who have recently decided not to co-sanction events on the Asian Tour after the latter received a $200 million investment from the Saudi state backed Liv Investments. The investment has created a new lucrative 10-tournament slate on the Asian circuit that the PGA and European Tours see as a challenge to the status quo. The PGA Tour has even stated that it will not give any of its players a waiver to play in Saudi Arabia.

Further complicating the issue are the allegations of sports washing that have been made against the Saudi regime, which extend across sports. Sports washing refers to the use of sports to overshadow or obscure other issues, which in this case is the Saudi state’s human right’s record. The two big tours in USA and Europe are also concerned that this is the first step in the Saudi’s planning an F1 type team based year round league, which will threaten the tours monopoly. 

However, two dozen players from the PGA Tour, including six-time Major winner Phil Mickelson have already confirmed their entries in the tournament. Rumour has it that the players are being paid hefty appearance fees of several million dollars and will have the use of chartered private jets. Among the other prominent Major winners who will tee-it up in Saudi are former World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who has played all three previous editions of the tournament and has won it twice, and long-hitting Bryson DeChambeau who played in Saudi last year. 

These players have received unexpected support from Major winners Rory McIlroy and Colin Morikawa, even though neither of them will be playing in the tournament. For four-time Major winner McIlroy, it’s about freedom of choice. “We (golfers) are independent contractors, and we should be able to play where we want,” McIlroy said. “So I think the Tour should grant releases (to those who want to play in the Saudi International). It’s an Asian Tour event that has official golf world rankings. For me, the PGA Tour is the best place in the world to play, but a lot of other players are doing that (signing up for Saudi International), and it’s fair to let them.”

For Morikawa it’s about spreading the game of golf. “When it comes to Saudi, when it comes to the PGA Tour, I think the underlying message that everyone needs to realise is we’re here to grow the game.”

The PGA Tour argues that theirs is a voluntary members organisation run for and by the members, who agree to abide by the Tour’s rules. It appears that the case will be settled in international courts of law, far from the action on the greens. 

Here’s a list Players who have confirmed their entries for the 2022 Saudi International:

  • Abraham Ancer
  • Adri Arnaus
  • Rafael Cabrera Bello
  • Paul Casey
  • Bryson DeChambeau🏆
  • Jason Dufner🏆
  • Tommy Fleetwood
  • Sergio Garcia🏆
  • Tyrrell Hatton
  • Dustin Johnson🏆
  • Jason Kokrak
  • Shane Lowry🏆
  • Graeme McDowell🏆
  • Phil Mickelson🏆
  • Kevin Na
  • Joaquin Niemann
  • Louis Oosthuizen🏆
  • Ian Poulter
  • Xander Schauffele
  • Adam Scott🏆
  • Henrik Stenson🏆
  • Harold Varner III
  • Jhonattan Vegas
  • Bubba Watson🏆
  • Lee Westwood

*🏆 major winners

Photo – Golf Digest

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