Saudi International gets “bigger and better” as fans and players enjoy weekend of golf, entertainment and live music at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC)
King Abdullah Economic City, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – 6 February: The second annual Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers lived up to its billing as ‘The Ultimate Day Out,’ welcoming more than 25,000 fans for a thrilling weekend of world-class golf and unforgettable live entertainment.
King Abdullah Economic City’s Royal Greens Golf & Country Club once again played host as fans descended on the Red Sea coastal course to watch one of the European Tour’s strongest fields battle it out over four days.
It was, for many, an exciting first foray into the hugely popular international sport, where they could watch the best golfers on the planet – including world number one Brooks Koepka, among a host of Major-winning superstars – before rocking out to some of the most energetic concerts the Kingdom has ever seen, from the likes of Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Bryan Adams and DJ Zedd.
Omar Mattar, 23, made the trip through to KAEC from Jeddah with two of his friends. He said: “We’re big sports fans but golf for us – like many people in Saudi Arabia – is a very new sport. Being huge Zedd fans, we decided we’d come through to see what the golf was like before going to the concert at night. It feels bigger and better than last year.
“It was amazing to see how far the ball flew when the players hit it, and how accurately they were able to aim to be close to the flag. They made it look so easy. When we tried playing in the Entertainment Zone though we realised it’s a bit harder than it looks! But it was a great experience and the concert was incredible! We’ll be back next year, without a doubt.”
Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell come out on top in the tournament, beating defending champion and US powerhouse Dustin Johnson’s by two shots after an engrossing four days of golf. The 40-year-old admitted that he too had loved his time in the Kingdom.
He said: “This week really exceeded my expectations on a lot of levels. The hotel was very comfortable; the golf course was fantastic. They took great care of us. I think they did a really nice job with the staging and the things they have done this week. It was a fun event.
“Obviously golf is an emerging sport here and [we want to help] contribute to where this nation wants to go. I wish this country well, I really do in golf, and hopefully I'll be back to defend next year.”
Five-time Major champion Phil Mickelson was making his first competitive visit to the Kingdom. He too was full of praise for both the event, and the hospitality he had experienced.
“I've had a great week and this is really, again, been a great week for me to build off my game”, said ‘Lefty’. “We were treated so well and had a wonderful experience here. The course is spectacular. I'm very pleasantly surprised at what a quality golf course this is, because I know there's a lot of growth and a lot of courses being built, and this is a great standard to try to keep up with.”
Off the course, and Puerto Rican singing sensation Luis Fonsi – who performed to a packed crowd on the third night of the tournament – was also overwhelmed by the response he’d received playing his first gig in the Kingdom.
Posting online, he wrote: “It’s so nice to be able to do a concert in a place where music manages to connect us as if we speak the same language, regardless of race or culture. [The concert] was one of those you don’t forget. I can’t wait to be back.”
Hosts Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation were delighted with the success of what they see as the latest step on their quest to get Saudis out playing golf and falling in love with the sport.
Majed Al Sorour, CEO of Golf Saudi, said: “To have the top names in golf once again appear at the Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers was a real honour for us. Graeme's performance all four days was outstanding, and he is a worthy champion.
“The tournament continues to shape our collective vision for golf in the Kingdom, introducing the game at every level. I hope even more visitors turn out to join us in 2021 as golf becomes part of the fabric of modern-day Saudi Arabia.”