Sport - Golf - Brooks Koepka
Brooks Koepka speaks ahead of the PIF Saudi International Image Credit: Golf Saudi

Major winners Brooks Koepka, Bubba Watson, Phil Mickelson, and defending champion Harold Varner III have confirmed they’re fully fit ahead of kicking off their seasons this week at the fifth PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers, the Asian Tour’s flagship event.

Following a combination of either injury plagued seasons in 2022 or long winter breaks all four Americans confidently stated that they’re fit and ready to kick start their season in Saudi ahead of a busy schedule.

Six-time major champion, Phil Mickelson, is looking forward to getting back to some form after a turbulent 2022: “My game is night and day compared to last year. I have to look at last year as an anomaly and just let it go. I wasn’t ready to play at the start, I wasn’t ready to play during, and this off-season I’m ready to play. I’ve been playing really well at home, and I’m ready to bring my game back out here and compete.”

Sport - Golf - Phil Mickelson
Six-time major champion Phil Mickelson at the PIF Saudi International Image Credit: Golf Saudi

After finishing runner-up at the 2022 Saudi International, Bubba Watson’s year did also not go as planned when a knee injury at the US Open in June saw him forced to sit out the remainder of the year.

The PIF Saudi International will mark his return to competitive golf, on a course he has fond memories. Watson said: “I love this place, and not just because I played well a year ago. It’s real windy, it’s difficult, you’ve got to pull off some tricky shots. It’s a fun golf course, it’s beautiful, in good shape. A good test.

Sport - Golf - Bubba Watson
Bubba Watson speaking ahead of the PIF Saudi International Image Credit: Golf Saudi

“Physically I’m back to 100%, but mentally it’s going to be different after eight months out. You’re talking about trusting everything that I couldn’t do over the last eight months, trusting skills, trusting my practice again. Physically I’m back 100% without a shadow of a doubt.”

Koepka has also made the most of the longer off-season to return to feeling his best, he said: “Just excited to play, play healthy. Feel like I can play to my potential again, which is exciting.

“I feel good. I'm healthy with everything now. I feel like everything is right where it needs to be. I'm looking to put all that stuff behind me and not even talk about it anymore. That's how I feel. I just want to get back to playing normal golf or the golf I feel like I'm capable of and that I've done the past when I've been healthy.”

Varner III won the 2022 PIF Saudi International in impressive fashion, holing a 92ft putt on the last to win by one against compatriot, Watson.

“I think any time you defend a tournament it’s pretty awesome. At the end of today, it’s history, it’s was cool. I had a great time. I’m probably still running around the green back there, but come Thursday, it’s time to play golf.

“I have great memories here. I like this place. It’s in unbelievable shape.”

The Asian Tour’s flagship event will welcome a 118-strong field, bringing together household names as well as the top-30 stars on the Asian Tour, including three Saudi nationals Othman Almulla and the newly announced professionals Saud Al Sharif and Faisal Salhab.

The PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers moved onto the Asian Tour circuit in 2022 as part of a new partnership. The four-day event has a $5million prize fund and will once again seek to have one of the highest Official World Golf Ranking point totals in international golf when it tees-off in February.