Saudi International Preview: Betting Tips, TV Times

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Saudi International Preview: Betting Tips, How to watch on TV, and why the tournament has been so controversial

Four of the world's top five players are in the field this week for the European Tour's inagural Saudi International at Royal Greens G&CC, while the PGA Tour heads to Arizona for the Waste Management Phoenix Open

The Saudi International is a brand new event to a golf course unknown to the players, making it harder to predict who will come out on top. Last week's winners Justin Rose and Bryson DeChambeau are both in the field this week, but will face competition from Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and an in-form Sergio Garcia. 

Then there's the likes of last week's runner-up Matt Wallace, and Haotong Li, who would have finished 3rd in Dubai if not for a much debated rules-incident on the 72nd hole

Of course, the event itself has not been without its controversy. Yet regardless of whether you think the tournament should be on the schedule or not, it is, so we're giving you a run down of 10 players we think might be in contention this week, and how you can watch.

Course: Royal Greens G&CC, King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
Par: 70

Saudi International: How to watch it on TV in the UK? 

Thursday
Sky Sports Golf (08:00), Sky Sports Golf (11:30)

Friday
Sky Sports Main Event (08:00), Sky Sports Golf (08:00), Sky Sports Golf (11:30), Sky Sports Main Event (11:30)

Saturday & Sunday
Sky Sports Golf (09:30), Sky Sports Main Event (09:30)

Why is the Saudi International so controversial? 

It's undeniable that the staging of the Saudi International has brought about feelings of contempt towards the European Tour. It's a country that's human rights regimes are far removed from our own, and many have argued that an incentive of money should not outweigh the moral questions raised by going there. 

The event was announced in the aftermath of the murder of US-based Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate, which is thought to have been ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and is currently being investigated by the UN. In addition, the wide-spread repression of women and LGBT rights led many to question and condemn the decision to stage a tournament in the Middle Eastern Country. 

But with the biggest prize fund outside of the majors, WGC's and rolex series events, the Saudi International bagged four of the world's top five players (reportedly being paid big money appearance fees) - meaning there's plenty of world ranking points on offer for those deciding to play at the so far highly praised Royal Greens G&CC course. 

And while an interview or press conference doesn't normally include asking a player why they decided to come to an event, that's the way it's been for the likes of Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose and Brooks Koepka - who all distanced themselves from the politics of the country and insisted golf was what brought them there. Eddie Pepperell took to his blog to explain why the issue is more complicated than just morality. 

Saudi International: Betting Tips 

Justin Rose: 11/2
The World No.1 proved he is just that last week as he claimed his 10th PGA Tour title in just his second start with his new Honma golf clubs. It was also his eighth top 10 in just 10 starts since September, and as a winner all over the world, it's hard to ignore him. Ranks 1st on the European Tour so far this season for scoring average, and 2nd for both scoring and birdie average on the PGA Tour. 

Bryson DeChambeau: 13/1
The golf scientist admittedly didn't have his best golf for 54-holes in Dubai and still walked away with a seven-shot victory and his fourth title in nine worldwide starts. No reason why he won't continue that dominance. Ranks 1st for scoring average, 3rd for birdie average, 5th for SG: off the tee and 6th for SG: Tee to green on the PGA Tour. 

Dustin Johnson: 13/2
Took a week off after a T16 in Abu Dhabi, which was the first time he hasn't posted a top 10 in three desert starts - so there's no question he knows how to perform in the middle east. Prior to that had back-to-back top 5s on the PGA Tour and has only missed five cuts anywhere since 2016. Ranked 1st on the PGA Tour last year for birdie average, scoring average, SG: Tee to green and SG: Off the tee. 

Brooks Koepka: 10/1
A top 10 in Abu Dhabi was his third in six starts, and followed a 24th place finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in the first event of the year (when he was ranked as World No.1). Koepka paved his career on the Challenge and European Tour's so knows how to adapt to different conditions as well as anyone, and admitted that the last time he took a complete week off he ended up winning. Ranked inside the top 10 on the PGA Tour last season for Scoring average, Birdie average and SG: Off the tee. 

Sergio Garcia: 12/1
Garcia has a great record in the Middle East in general and finished T3 last week - which was his seventh consecutive top 10 that includes his win in Valderrama in October. Really on a hot streak at the moment, and ranks 2nd for scoring average, 3rd for SG: Approach the green, 6th SG: Tee to green, 12th birdie average and 15th for SG: off the tee on the European Tour this season. 

Patrick Reed: 18/1
Back to back T13s in his last PGA Tour starts indicates the potential start of a return to the form that saw him capture last year's Masters title. He also finished T2 in the DP World Tour Championships in Dubai during the European Tour's Race to Dubai finale at the end of last season. 

Ian Poulter: 20/1
Top 10s in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai suggests another good week in the desert for Poulter. Ranks 6th birdie average, 8th scoring average, 11th GIR and 23rd SG: putting on the European Tour this season. 

Matt Wallace: 20/1
Three top 10s and no worse than a T18 in his last six starts, which includes runner-up finishes at both last week's Omega Dubai Desert Classic and the DP World Tour Championship last season. It's clear he likes the desert, so we'd expert more of the same from the four-time European Tour winner. Ranks 13th par-four scoring average, 21st for birdie average and 26th SG: Putting. 

Haotong Li: 28/1
Three top 10s in his last seven starts would have been four if not for a costly two-shot penalty which dropped him from 3rd to 12th place during his defence of the Dubai Desert Classic last week, but proves he's in good form. Ranks 8th for birdie average and 19th for scoring average on the European Tour. 

Joost Luiten: 40/1
Luiten might have missed the cut last week but he finished 3rd in Abu Dhabi, and given that he claimed the inagural NBO Oman Open last year, he's definitely on our radar this week. Ranks 6th for SG: Approach the green, 10th SG: Tee to green, 14th for scoring average and 19th for GIR.