The tournament's debut on the European Tour earlier this year was one of the more contentious matters in the sport. The event was played shortly after Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor who lived in Virginia and was a critic of the Saudi Arabian government, was brutally assassinated at the country's ministry in Istanbul in October 2018. After initially denying its role in Khashoggi's killing, Saudi Arabia took responsibility for his execution, with the Saudi attorney general announcing the murder was premeditated.
The murder, along with other Saudi Arabia human-rights issues, put the European Tour, its commissioner Keith Pelley and players in the field (which included Koepka, Johnson, Justin Rose, Bryson DeChambeau and Sergio Garcia) in a precarious position.
The tournament remains polemical as it prepares for its second playing in Jan. 30-Feb. 2, making the commitments of Koepka and Johnson newsworthy.
"I really enjoyed my trip to Saudi Arabia last year, and my game certainly suited the layout at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club," said Johnson, who won the event in 2019, in a press release. "It’s great to see how Golf Saudi has strengthened its commitment to create a world-class golf event and its plans to grow golf in the region are in full swing. It’s an honor to be a part of it.”
Added Koepka, who finished T-57 in the event in 2019: "I’m excited to be returning to Saudi Arabia, after an enjoyable visit last year. The golf course is one of the best I’ve played in the region, with incredible scenery, including some breathtaking views of the Red Sea. The event is an opportunity to showcase the work being done to grow the game of golf in the Kingdom, which was evidenced by the enthusiastic fans last year. It is great to be involved with the initiative and I look forward to seeing the progress Golf Saudi has made in the past year.”
The Saudi International concludes the European Tour's "Desert Swing" through Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Originally Appeared on Golf Digest