Paul Casey a surprise entrant for 2021 Saudi International
English golfer previously said he would be ‘a hypocrite’ to accept appearance money at event
Paul Casey will play in next year’s Saudi International despite previously saying he would be “a hypocrite” if he received appearance money to play in the event. Photograph: Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Paul Casey has entered next year’s Saudi International despite previously saying he would be “a hypocrite” if he received appearance money to play in the event.
Casey, who is a Unicef ambassador, opted out of the inaugural event in 2019, citing concerns over the country’s human rights record.
In an interview with the Independent in March that year, the 43-year-old said: “It just didn’t sit well with me. I’ve not talked too much about it and I’m not sure I want to, but certainly signing a deal and being paid to be down there, I would be a hypocrite if I did that.”
The inaugural event attracted a star-studded field despite the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018 focusing further attention on the country’s regime.
And Casey will be joined at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club from February 4th-7th, 2021 by fellow Ryder Cup players Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, Tyrrell Hatton, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell, who won the title in 2020.
The strength of the field means a large number of world ranking and Ryder Cup points will be on offer, with qualifying for the European team resuming in 2021 after being frozen following the postponement of the biennial contest.
“With Ryder Cup qualification on the line, I am obviously looking to get my campaign off to a fast start and getting a decent finish or winning the Saudi International against such a stellar field would be massive,” Poulter said.
“It’s been a really weird year with Covid so we are all looking forward to a fresh start in 2021 and I am hoping it is also a strong start as I keep my eyes firmly focused on qualifying for the European team at Whistling Straits.”
Roussel carded nine birdies, including five in a row from the 10th, in an opening seven-under-par 65 at Leopard Creek which was matched by Poland’s Adrian Meronk, with Scotland’s Scott Jamieson a shot behind following a 66.
England’s Richard Bland, who is seeking a first European Tour title at the age of 47 and in his 468th event, is two shots off the lead after firing six birdies in the space of eight holes in his 67.
“I started the round pretty well so that put me a little bit in confidence,” said Roussel, who was grateful for the expertise of local caddie Army Nathi Mdluli.
“I had a bunch of good birdies and good putts especially. I’m lucky to have Army on the bag, who is a local so he gets to read the greens pretty well.
“And he helped a lot. I had quality putts on the 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th. I think without him I wouldn’t have been able to put all these in.”
Jamieson, whose sole European Tour victory to date came in South Africa in 2012 in an event reduced to 36 holes by bad weather, birdied four of his last five holes after recovering from losing a ball on the par-three 12th.
“I’m delighted to have a very strong finish but that’s what’s so good about this course, you’ve got three par fives in the last seven holes so you know even if you’re over par early you know there’s going to be opportunities to take,” Jamieson said.
“Thankfully I got off to a nice start and then was able to keep going as the round went on.
“The real momentum save if I’m being honest was probably on 12, my only bogey. I actually lost a ball off the tee and then holed a nice putt with my second ball for a four so that probably kept my head up.
“At that point I’m a couple under for the day and I know I’ve got three good opportunities ahead of me if I hit good shots and it worked out nicely.”
British and Irish unless stated , par 72, (a) denotes amateur
65 Robin Roussel (Fra), Adrian Meronk (Pol)
66 Scott Jamieson
67 Richard Bland
68 Ockie Strydom (Rsa), Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez (Esp), Gavin Green (Mal)
69 Steven Brown, Matthew Jordan, Joost Luiten (Ned), Oliver Wilson, Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa), Jayden Trey Schaper (Rsa), Benjamin Follet-Smith (Zim), Masahiro Kawamura (Jpn), Jacques Blaauw (Rsa), Chris Wood, Marcel Siem (Ger), David Horsey, Daniel Van Tonder (Rsa), Christiaan Basson (Rsa), Jbe Kruger (Rsa), James Du Preez (Rsa)
70 Adri Arnaus (Esp), Jaco Van Zyl (Rsa), Matthias Schwab (Aut), Joachim B. Hansen (Den), Dale Whitnell, Daniel Greene (Rsa), Nacho Elvira (Esp), Sean Crocker (USA), Ruan Conradie (Rsa), Oliver Farr, Alexander Levy (Fra)
71 Marcus Armitage, James Kingston (Rsa), Garrick Porteous, Brandon Stone (Rsa), Richard McEvoy, Matias Calderon (Chi), Lars Van Meijel (Ned), Jacques Kruyswijk (Rsa), Hennie Du Plessis (Rsa), Julian Suri (USA), Fabrizio Zanotti (Pry), Eddie Pepperell, Johannes Veerman (USA), Calum Hill, Wilco Nienaber (Rsa), Richard Sterne (Rsa)
72 Cormac Sharvin, David Law, Sean Bradley (Rsa), Riekus Nortje (Rsa), Julien Guerrier (Fra), David Drysdale, Pedro Figueiredo (Por), Garrick Higgo (Rsa), Robert Macintyre, Justin Walters (Rsa), Steve Surry, Scott Vincent (Zim)
73 Michael G Palmer (Rsa), Louis Albertse (Rsa), Jean-Paul Strydom (Rsa), Wil Besseling (Ned), Darius Van Driel (Ned), Nicolai Hojgaard (Den), Trevor Fisher Jnr (Rsa), Anton Karlsson (Swe), Jaco Ahlers (Rsa), Matthieu Pavon (Fra), Zander Lombard (Rsa), Darren Fichardt (Rsa), George Coetzee (Rsa), Shubhankar Sharma (Ind), Oliver Bekker (Rsa), MJ Viljoen (Rsa), Deon Germishuys (Rsa)
74 Adilson Da Silva (Bra), Philip Eriksson (Swe), CJ Du Plessis (Rsa), Pablo Larrazabal (Esp), Laurie Canter, Scott Hend (Aus), (a) Casey Jarvis (Rsa), Rourke Van Der Spuy (Rsa), Chris Cannon, Dylan Naidoo (Rsa), Anton Haig (Rsa), Toby Tree, Martin Rohwer (Rsa), Keenan Davidse (Rsa), Jake Roos (Rsa), Lorenzo Gagli (Ita), Stephen Ferreira (Por)
75 Hennie Otto (Rsa), JC Ritchie (Rsa), Ruan Korb (Rsa), Alvaro Quiros (Esp), Estiaan Conradie (Rsa), Albert Venter (Rsa), Keith Horne (Rsa), Ricardo Santos (Por), Adrian Otaegui (Esp)
76 Anthony Michael (Rsa), Shaun Norris (Rsa), Benjamin Poke (Den), Callum Mowat (Rsa), Jack Harrison, Carlos Pigem (Esp), Dean Burmester (Rsa), Jake Redman (Rsa), Thriston Lawrence (Rsa), Bryce Easton (Rsa), Jack Senior, Aaron Cockerill (Can), Jean Hugo (Rsa), Joel Stalter (Fra), David Howell, MJ Daffue (Rsa), Jamie Donaldson, Jaco Prinsloo (Rsa), Ross McGowan
77 Lucas Bjerregaard (Den), Toto Thimba Jnr (Rsa), Neil Schietekat (Rsa), Haydn Porteous (Rsa), Rhys Enoch, Heinrich Bruiners (Rsa), Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Esp), Adrien Saddier (Fra), Andrew Van Der Knaap (Rsa), JJ Senekal (Rsa), Stefan Wears-Taylor (Rsa), Luke Jerling (Rsa)
78 Michael Hollick (Rsa), Joel Sjoholm (Swe), Tristen Strydom (Rsa), Connor Syme
79 (a) Joe Long, Ben Stow, (a) Jake Bolton, Louis De Jager (Rsa), Musiwalo Nethunzwi (Rsa), Jonathan Caldwell
80 Merrick Bremner (Rsa), Jorge Campillo (Esp), Oliver Fisher
81 Thanda Mavundla (Rsa)
82 Teaghan Gauche (Rsa)
83 Ruan Ger Smidt (Rsa), Siyanda Mwandia (Rsa)
87 Andrea Pavan (Ita)
89 Thomas Plumb