Some of the best players in the world have assembled for this year's Saudi International as it begins life as an Asian Tour event. No longer broadcast by Sky Sports, it was revealed that British free-to-air sports TV channel FreeSports had acquired the rights to show live action from the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club.
Whatever anyone's thoughts on the tournament itself, the appearance fees rumoured to be as much as $15 million, or the apparent attempts to "sportswash" the country's human rights record, the prospect of free live golf was something to look forward to. That is, until it turned out the second half of the first two rounds weren't free.
Fans in the UK and Ireland were left confused and disappointed as Premier Sports, the company that owns FreeSports, halted coverage at 10am - UK time - with the changeover pending an upgraded subscription that costs £12.99 per month. Although Saturday and Sunday's play is free to view on the channel, it still left a slightly sour taste for viewers who were expecting free live action.
In addition, there has been a distinct lack of highlights coverage, the likes of which are regularly posted to social media and YouTube by the PGA and DP World Tours. With such a star-studded line-up, it's a serious missed opportunity by tournament organisers to try and establish some goodwill among the people that are so vital to the success of not only this tournament, but any prospective plans to grow the Asian Tour and the rumoured Saudi breakaway circuit.
You can have all the money in the world, but if the product isn't good enough then it'll be a complete non-starter. And it's not just us that's noticed, with many viewers taking to Twitter to voice their displeasure.
Here are some of the reactions:
I watched a bit but the coverage was really poor. So switched offFebruary 4, 2022
Watched a bit this morning for 30 minutes coverage was very poor back to the @DPWorldTour great coverage top class commetery as usual great stuff from Wayne raidar Riley @SkySportsGolf 👍🏌️⛳February 4, 2022
I was but didn’t enjoy the coverage or commentary.February 4, 2022
It's early days, but if a Saudi-backed Super Golf League does come to fruition, and if the Asian Tour does want to grow and compete with golf's two premier circuits, TV coverage simply must be better. Heck, it's even difficult sourcing a reliable and updated leaderboard...
How to watch FreeSports TV
British free-to-air sports television channel FreeSports is owned by Premier Sports, and was launched in August 2017. There are a number of ways you can access the service:
Sky HD - Channel 422; Virgin TV HD - Channel 553; Freeview - Channel 64; BT/TalkTalk - Channel 64; Online via the FreeSports Player
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A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.
Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.
As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.
What's in Andy's bag?
Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)
3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (15°)
Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)
Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)
Putter: TaylorMade Spider X
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
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