The Asian Tour will showcase its strongest ever field in February following the announcement that another six players inside the world’s Top 50 have signed up to play in the star-studded Saudi International.
Patrick Reed, Matthew Wolff, Cameron Smith, Marc Leishman, Lucas Herbert and Tony Finau will all play at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, joining what is already an A-list field that includes defending champion Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele and Louis Oosthuizen.
The tournament, which will be played from February 3-6, is this year co-sanctioned by the Asian Tour with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) – which recently acquired an 80 per cent holding stake in Newcastle United – serving as its headline sponsor with the event enjoying a mammoth prize fund of $5million compared to last year’s $3.5million.
The Saudi International has been widely criticised since it was first played in 2019 as part of the Saudi government's efforts to 'sportswash' its human rights abuse.
Last October, the Asian Tour penned a landmark $200million deal with LIV Golf Investments, a start-up company with Greg Norman as its CEO that would look to drive and promote commercial opportunities in Asian Pacific territories.
But with PIF also being the majority shareholder of LGI, speculation continues to grow that Norman will be at the centre of a new Saudi-backed golf league.
The Australian has been closely linked to a breakaway circuit since plans resurfaced last year, which have been met with much hostility from both the European and PGA Tours.
There had been suggestions that the PGA Tour would be reluctant to allow its players to join the Saudi International showpiece, while the European Tour had countered any threat of a Saudi takeover by scrapping its Open exemption spot for the Asian Tour Order of Merit winner.
However, releases were approved after the PGA Tour requested that players would have to commit to playing in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am - which will be played in the same week as the Asian Tour event this year with a diminished field – in future seasons.
"We have a truly world-class international field assembling for the 2022 edition of the Saudi International. The mix of the world’s best players from across the U.S., Europe and Asia Pacific will make this year our most anticipated yet," said Majed Al-Sorour, CEO and Deputy Chairman of Golf Saudi and the Saudi Golf Federation via a release.
"Bringing together strong fields for our international men’s and women’s events has shown to play a vital role in driving participation and engagement in the sport in Saudi Arabia.
"The commitment from our long-term partners at the PIF to take the title position on the event has provided further recognition that the event has reached a level of strategic importance for Saudi Arabia, impacting our schools and grassroots programs as well as our rapidly improving national teams as part of the long journey we’re on in Saudi Arabia."
Cho Minn Thant, Commissioner and CEO of the Asian Tour, added: “We are under a month to go before one of the biggest events in the history of the Asian Tour.
“And with our season-ending double-header in Singapore approaching to confirm our top 30 players from the Order of Merit, we are all set for a hugely significant week. The tournament will give our members an incredible opportunity to play with many of the game’s global stars and allow us to further increase our fan base.”
Alex began his journalism career in regional newspapers in 2001 and moved to the Press Association four years later. He spent three years working at Dennis Publishing before first joining Golf Monthly, where he was on the staff from 2008 to 2015 as the brand's managing editor, overseeing the day-to-day running of our award-winning magazine while also contributing across various digital platforms. A specialist in news and feature content, he has interviewed many of the world's top golfers and returns to Golf Monthly after a three-year stint working on the Daily Telegraph's sports desk. His current role is diverse as he undertakes a number of duties, from managing creative solutions campaigns in both digital and print to writing long-form features for the magazine. Alex has enjoyed a life-long passion for golf and currently plays to a handicap of 13 at Tylney Park Golf Club in Hampshire.
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