The European Tour heads to Saudi Arabia for the second time this week as it stages the controversial Saudi International, an event carrying decent prize money which has attracted a heck of a field for what is only a regular tour event.
Dustin Johnson went home considerably richer than when he arrived last year having won the tournament and he is back looking to pocket another title and decent wad of cash. Some good players are out to oppose him though.
2019 – Dustin Johnson
We have a little more information to go on with the Royal Greens and Country Club this week. It remains a par 70 which measures 7,010 yards and with the course set by the coast and with huge bunkering around it there is an element of accuracy involved in getting around here, although power is the main attribute required.
I say that because at least four of the par fours are drivable for the bigger hitters, or at least they can get within scrambling range on them, and on a track where there are now only two par fives that is an enormous advantage. Dustin Johnson is obviously a big hitter but those in the frame last year – Haotong Li, Tom Lewis and Min Woo Lee – are all long hitters. That’s the theme to play this week.
There is a heavy American contingent attracted by the riches on offer this week with Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed and Phil Mickelson all having tee times while PGA Tour stars Abraham Ancer and Jhonattan Vegas are both in the field as well. They dominate the market as you would expect but The Open champion Shane Lowry shouldn’t be forgotten and he is in the field as well.
The impressive Victor Perez goes in search of a second European Tour title this week while other seasoned European campaigners such as Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Thomas Pieters, Tom Lewis, Martin Kaymer and Bernd Wiesberger are among those who are also teeing it up here. Last week’s champion Lucas Herbert is in the field as is the Abu Dhabi winner Lee Westwood. This is a competitive field for sure.
Dustin Johnson tees off as the 15/2 favourite to retain the title and in a lot of ways it is hard to argue with that. This is a strong field though so whether you are comfortable about taking a single figure price or not is personal preference. I’m personally not interested especially as I don’t think he is playing anywhere near as well now as he was 12 months ago, but his strengths are all brought out around here so he should be respected at the very least.
Brooks Koepka continues his return from injury this week and he’ll tee it up as an 11/1 shot, which it is easy to argue is decent value. He is this price because he probably isn’t yet in tune with his game after that long layoff at the back end of 2019 but he won’t be going off at 11/1 in a normal European Tour event very often. He is another whose strengths come out on this course so if he has shaken off the rust there is no reason why he can’t be involved at the business end. He might just be a little too vulnerable here.
Patrick Reed should really be competitive every time he tees it up on the European Tour but he is 14/1 this week because his results don’t necessarily highlight that so far. He lacks a little in length of some of those in the field this week but on and around the greens he will probably make up for that. Reed won a FedEx Cup playoff event towards the end of 2019 but he hasn’t really kicked on from there how I would have expected him to so he isn’t for me.
Victor Perez is making a huge name for himself on the European Tour and could easily have won both the tournaments in the desert so far. He is 22/1 to make it third time lucky this week and anyone who is a regular reader of our previews will know that I am a massive fan of the young Frenchman. There isn’t a lot to dislike about him at all. He is long off the tee, handles the breeze and putts well. He should be there or thereabouts again.
I hope it will be third time lucky for Victor Perez because once again he is my main bet to win the tournament. He had a shocking Sunday in Dubai last week but he wasn’t the only one and those conditions were about as brutal as he will have come across. Nothing like the same is expected here thankfully. Perez is perfectly long enough to get the job done on the holes that require it and he has a good enough all-round game to prosper on the others. I maintain my belief that he’s the next big thing from Europe and so he is my first main bet.
You often find form in Portugal equates well to form in the desert so I’ll take Tom Lewis as my second main bet this week, especially considering he has won twice out in the Portugal Masters and comes in here off the back of an encouraging third placed finish in Dubai last week. He finished in the top five here last year and I suspect this is a big week for him as he has a PGA Tour card so he’ll want to commit some time over there in the coming weeks. If he can leave with a good platform in Europe behind him it will make life much easier for him. Lewis has the game to go well here.
I’ll go with a pair of outsiders who have the tools to go well around here with the first of those coming in the form of Ryan Fox, a Kiwi star who was just outside the top five here a year ago. He only plays one way. He gets the driver out and gives it a good crack but that isn’t a bad thing this week by any stretch of the imagination. He has won on the European Tour since he was last here so comes with a better confidence and reputation about him. If he can keep the driver straight and his putter gets hot he could well be a big price.
I’ve backed Dean Burmester a few times in the desert, especially at the season ending Dubai tournament and he has gone well each time. I see no reason why he won’t go well here even though he made a mess of the tournament 12 months ago. He arrives here off the back of finishing third in Dubai last week where the key components of his game looked in a very good order indeed. We know he smacks it long enough to compete around here so if the irons and short clubs play ball he’ll be overpriced.
Back V.Perez to win Saudi International (e/w) for a 1.5/10 stake at 23.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-8)
Back him here:
Back T.Lewis to win Saudi International (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 29.00 with Betway (1/5 1-7)
Back R.Fox to win Saudi International (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 91.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-6)
Back D.Burmester to win Saudi International (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-7)