Big names risk wrath of home circuits by committing to play Saudi Invitational

Twenty-five of the biggest names in golf have committed to play the 2022 Saudi Invitational, potentially placing them on a collision course with their home circuits. The defending champion Dustin Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Bryson DeChambeau are among the players scheduled to compete in the £3.7m event on 3-6 February.

The PGA Tour said in July that it would not grant players the required releases to play in “unsanctioned events”, with the DP World Tour – which signed a strategic alliance with the PGA Tour a year ago – expected to follow suit. That could lead to players being fined or even suspended if they opt to play at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in Jeddah or in other Asian Tour events.

On Monday the PGA Tour said in a statement: “We have not granted any conflicting-event releases for the Saudi International tournament. Per PGA Tour regulations, a decision on conflicting-event releases can be made up until 30 days before the event’s first round.”

The Saudi International was previously on the European Tour but is now the flagship event on the Asian Tour, which is also launching 10 new events spearheaded by the former world number one Greg Norman and backed by $200m from the Saudi government’s Private Investment Fund. The DP World Tour declined to comment on the issue.

Meanwhile, Suzann Pettersen admits she has some “big shoes to fill” after landing her dream role as Europe’s Solheim Cup captain. Pettersen has made nine appearances as a player in the biennial contest, most famously as a controversial wildcard selection by captain Catriona Matthew in 2019. Pettersen holed the winning putt on the 18th green at Gleneagles and then immediately announced her retirement.

The two-time major winner was also one of Matthew’s vice-captains as Europe retained the trophy with just a second win on American soil in Toledo in September. She has now been handed the task of securing an unprecedented hat-trick of victories in Spain in 2023.

“It’s a dream come true to be able to captain the European team,” Pettersen said. “I was just so honoured. It’s been a huge part of my career and obviously a new chapter now leading the way. I was told a few weeks ago and I’m excited to be able to share the news with my friends and the rest of the golfing world.

“I was hoping I was going to get a chance. Catriona did a fantastic job at Gleneagles, she did a fantastic job defending it in Toledo, winning away from home and now handing it over to me going for three in a row.

“She’s leaving some big shoes to fill to be quite honest. It’s a big task, a big challenge but like the way I played I’m going to give it my heart and soul and hopefully I’ll be able to get the best team together to give it a good solid try.”


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