Public Investment Fund named new title sponsor of controversial Saudi International, which features four of world’s top 15 players

Public Investment Fund named new title sponsor of controversial Saudi International, which features four of world’s top 15 players

The controversial Saudi International has a new title sponsor and an even stronger field set to compete next month.

On Monday the Public Investment Fund, which is Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, was announced as the new title sponsor of the event Feb. 3-6 at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.

A few more names were added to the field, including Patrick Reed – who has played in each Saudi International since its debut in 2019 – and last year’s runner-up, Tony Finau. Matthew Wolff, Cameron Smith, Marc Leishman, Lucas Herbert and Victor Perez will make their debuts.

The Saudi International is the same week as the PGA Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in California. That long-running event at one of the best sites on Tour each year will see a diminished field because so many players committed to play in Saudi Arabia.

Previously announced players for the Saudi International include 2021 PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson, two-time Saudi International champion Dustin Johnson, 2020 champion Graeme McDowell as well as Abraham Ancer, Lee Westwood, Tommy Fleetwood, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Na, Jason Kokrak, Bryson DeChambeau, Sergio Garcia, Tyrrell Hatton, Adri Arnaus, Rafael Cabrera Bello, Paul Casey, Jason Dufner, Shane Lowry, Joaquin Niemann, Louis Oosthuizen, Ian Poulter, Xander Schauffele, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Harold Varner III, Jhonattan Vegas and Bubba Watson.

“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.”

More from the release: “A particular focus of PIF Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers will be enhancing the event’s current work on sustainability, innovation, women and youth. A key goal will be to further accelerate the transformation of the Saudi International and be a leading example for golf events globally.”

Since the inaugural Saudi International in 2019, the tournament has been widely criticized as part of the Saudi government’s effort to “sportswash” its human rights abuses, same with LIV Golf Investments, the new golf venture led by Greg Norman that’s also backed by the PIF. The fund’s chairman is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the son of Saudi Arabia’s king.

In its first year as part of the Asian Tour schedule, the 2022 Saudi International features the strongest field in the history of the tour. In 2021 the Saudis made a $100 million investment in the Asian Tour.