The 2022 Saudi International will feature a world-class field — presumably including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau — after the PGA Tour granted releases to over two dozen golfers to head overseas for the event which falls on the same week as the Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, according to a memo obtained by Golfweek.
While it is not uncommon for the Tour to disseminate these releases, this event was up in the air because seemingly more players than ever requested them. There has been much upheaval in the world of professional golf at the highest level since last year’s edition, which Johnson won.
In that time, multiple leagues have popped up as potential threats to the Tour, including the Super Golf League, which is ostensibly under construction as LIV Golf Investments tries to pull in the biggest names in golf with loads of cash. LIV Golf Investments has received money from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund for the sake of this potential new global league as well as money for current investment in the Asian Tour. LIV Golf Investments committed $200 million to the Asian Tour over the next decade for a variety of events as it tries to establish itself on the global stage.
In that same time, the European Tour, which has a partnership with the PGA Tour, has removed its co-sanctioning of the Saudi International. That means the Saudi event serves solely an Asian Tour tournament, and the preeminent one at that, considering who’s going to be involved.
The PGA Tour intimated in the middle of 2021 that it would not allow its members to travel to Saudi Arabia for the Saudi International, but it reversed course this week by informing players who requested the waivers that they would be allowed to go play.
As part of the course change, however, the waivers come with some stipulations. Golfers who requested the waiver and have played in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in the last five years will be required to play in it again at least once in the next two years (2023 and 2024). Players who have not played in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am over the last five years will have to play it twice in the next three years (2023-25).
Many of the PGA Tour golfers who travel to and play in the Saudi International will receive substantial appearance fees for doing so. This is simply the latest tussle in what has become a fairly high-stakes global (and political) battle between an already-established league, an upstart disruptor and all the best golfers on the planet. There is no end in sight to that fight, even though the Tour has upped its payouts across the board.
The 2022 Saudi International will take place from Feb. 3-6.