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

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.

Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

Updated 21 March 2019

Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

  • Former Saudi Arabia coach wants to guide the Whites to their first World Cup since 1990.
  • "If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here," Dutchman says of his new job.

LONDON: Bert van Marwijk has told the UAE he only has one thing on his mind: Getting the side to the 2022 World Cup. 

The former Saudi Arabia boss was unveiled as the new coach of the Whites before watching his new team beat his former team 2-1 in a friendly in Dubai (see right). While he was in the stand rather than the dugout — interim boss Saleem Abdelrahman took charge — he would have liked what he saw as he set himself the challenge of leading the UAE to their first showpiece since 1990. 

“I’m here for only one thing, and that’s to qualify for the World Cup,” the Dutchman said.  

“It takes a long time and the first thing we have to deal with is the first qualification round. That’s why I’m here.”

Van Marwijk was celebrated after he led the Green Falcons to last year's World Cup before calling it quits. (AFP) 

Van Marwijk guided Saudi Arabia to last year’s World Cup — the Green Falcons’ first appearance at the showpiece for 12 years — during a two-year stint which ended in September 2017.

That was one of the key reasons the UAE fought hard for the 66-year-old and while it is never easy getting through Asian qualifying — 46 teams going for just four direct slots at Qatar 2022 — the Dutchman claimed his experience, combined with his knowledge of the UAE, will stand him in good stead. 

“The Saudis and the UAE are about the same level. With the Saudis we qualified for Russia, so we will do really everything to go to Qatar in 2022,” Van Marwijk said. 

While he is fondly remembered in the Kingdom — only a contractual dispute regarding backroom staff meant he did not stay on as Green Falcons coach for the Russia tournament — it is his time as the Netherlands coach that really stands out on his managerial resume. Van Marwijk coached the Oranje to within minutes of the World Cup trophy, with only an Andres Iniesta extra-time winner preventing him from tasting ultimate glory against Spain in 2010. 

So why did he return to the Gulf for another crack at World Cup qualification in a tough, crowded race? 

“One of the reasons is the feeling. I have to have the right feeling when I sign a contract,” Van Marwijk said. “We analyzed the UAE, we played four times against each other with Saudi, so I can see the potential.

“I have had the experience to go to the World Cup twice. The first time we were second in the world, the second time was with Australia (which he coached last summer) and we were a little bit unlucky — we played very well. 

“So to go to the World Cup for the third time is the goal.”

Van Marwijk is all too aware his task will be difficult. The “Golden Generation” of Emirati footballers, spearheaded by Omar Abdulrahman, tried and failed to make it to football’s biggest tournament, and a lot of the next three years’ work will likely depend on a new generation.

“I heard there were some young talents, so I’m anxious to know how good they are,” the Dutchman said. “I know the team has a few very good players — the UAE has a few weapons. 

“That’s the most important thing. If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here.”