Brooks Koepka and Bryson Dechambeau to tee it up at Saudi International

Brooks Koepka is looking forward to the inaugural event north of Jeddah. (AFP)
Updated 12 January 2019
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Brooks Koepka and Bryson Dechambeau to tee it up at Saudi International

  • Former world No.1 Koepka to join Dustin Johnson and Co. at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club at the end of the month.
  • US world No.5 Dechambeau to also play in the European Tour event.

LONDON: Brooks Koepka and Bryson Dechambeau have added their names to the star-studded list set to tee it up at the inaugural Saudi International this month.
The tournament completes the Middle East swing of the European Tour and now arguably has the strongest field of the trio of tournaments taking place in January — the Abu Dhabi Championship and Dubai Desert Classic being the other, more established, events.
The two Americans join an impressive field looking to win the first title at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.
The new stop off on the European Tour wanted to make a statement and it has by landing Koepka, meaning the tournament now has the past three world No.1s in the field — Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson are heading the event.
Added to that impressive threeball is Masters champion Patrick Reed, while Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter have also been confirmed.
With Dechambeau being ranked world No.5 that means the Saudi International can boast of having four of the world’s top five players teeing it up at the Red Sea course.
That is something that that can only be good for the growth of golf in the Kingdom, according to 
Yasir Al-Rumayyan, chairman of the Saudi Golf Federation.
“Our intention from the outset was to secure one of the strongest fields in world golf to compete in our inaugural event,” Al-Rumayyan said. “(The announcement of Koepka and Dechambeau) is the final step and completes a headline roster befitting a championship of this significance and will attract major national and international interest.”
There has long been a battle between Abu Dhabi and Dubai to bag the strongest fields. For years Dubai could boast of having Tiger Woods take on the iconic Majlis course, while Abu Dhabi have attracted big names such as Phil Mickelson to grace the fairways of the UAE capital. Both are now firmly established events but took some time to attract the stellar names that they do on a regular basis now. So to have such an impressive field for the inaugural event is a big statement of intent by the Saudi International.
Koepka cannot wait to get on to the first tee.
“I started my professional career in Europe and the diversity of tournaments and experiences I enjoyed has undoubtedly helped broaden my game and helped me to perform on the international stage,” the three-time Major winner said.
“It’s always exciting to line up against the best players in the world and I am looking forward to experiencing the culture of a new country.”
Completing the impressive list of golfing talent on show are 
European Ryder Cup heroes Lee Westwood and Thorbjørn Olesen and four-time Major winner Ernie Els.
The South African played in an exhibition match against Saudi golfer Othman Almulla last year and said: “I’ve played golf all over the world and was delighted to be invited to play Royal Greens.
“The place is spectacular and it will be a great venue for the event.
“I’ve spent some time getting to know a little bit about the 
Kingdom’s plans to accelerate golf development in the country and I’m privileged to be a part of it,” the South African added.


Kyrgios withdraws from French Open, citing illness

Updated 44 min 24 sec ago
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Kyrgios withdraws from French Open, citing illness

  • Roger Federer plays down chances of his winning the mega title

PARIS: After a tantrum in Italy last week, Nick Kyrgios withdrew from the French Open on Friday.

The ATP said the Australian player cited illness as the reason.

Last week at the Italian Open, the 36th-ranked Kyrgios was defaulted and fined during his second-round match after an outburst of rage. Trailing against Norwegian qualifier Casper Ruud, Kyrgios slammed his racket to the clay and kicked a water bottle. Then he picked up a white chair and flung it onto the court.

Kyrgios was fined and lost ATP points but escaped suspension and was expected to play in Paris.

His withdrawal came only days after Kyrgios posted a video online in which he said the French Open “sucks” when compared to Wimbledon, where he trained recently.

In 2015, Kyrgios insulted Stan Wawrinka with crude remarks during a match in Montreal. He was fined $12,500 and given a suspended 28-day ban. He also attracted criticism for deciding not to play at the Olympics because of a spat with an Australian team official, and for firing back at retired players who have offered advice.

Also on Friday, Roger Federer played down his chances of winning the French Open on his first appearance at Roland Garros since 2015, saying that title-winning form might not be “in his racquet.”

The 20-time Grand Slam champion missed the French Open in 2016 through injury before sitting out the next two clay-court seasons in order to focus on Wimbledon.

But he will make his Roland Garros return on Sunday with a first-round tie against unheralded Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

Federer admitted that he is unsure of his title chances, but did compare his current situation with when he ended a five-year Grand Slam drought at the Australian Open in 2017.

“(I) don’t know (if I can win the tournament). A bit of a question mark for me. Some ways I feel similar to maybe the Australian Open in ‘17,” the 2009 French Open winner said.

“A bit of the unknown. I feel like I’m playing good tennis, but is it enough against the absolute top guys when it really comes to the crunch? I’m not sure if it’s in my racquet.

“But I hope I can get myself in that position deep down in the tournament against the top guys. But first I need to get there and I know that’s a challenge in itself.”

Despite being the third seed, Federer faces a tricky draw, with a possible quarter-final against Greek youngster Stefanos Tsitsipas — who beat him in the Australian Open last 16 — and a potential last-four clash with 11-time champion and old adversary Rafael Nadal.

Meanwhile, Nadal said on Friday that he “doesn’t care” if he is the red-hot favorite to lift a record-extending 12th French Open title, insisting that there are a host of players in contention for the trophy.

The world number two holds an incredible French Open win-loss record of 86-2, and hit top form by winning his ninth Italian Open last week with a final victory over old rival Novak Djokovic.