World number one Brooks Koepka is one of the headline acts competing at the Saudi International, with a financially lucrative tournament tempting several stars on the PGA Tour to turn a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

Royal Greens Golf & Country Club is a 7,010-yard par 70 which was overpowered last season by the big hitters. With a number of short par fours, length off the tee is a major asset this week.

Koepka makes only his second appearance since returning from his knee injury and failed to impress here last season, finishing 57th, suggesting the four-time major champion can be left out of the staking plan.

 

Dustin Johnson Each Way

Dustin Johnson is this week’s favourite and the American is backed to produce a successful title defence at Royal Greens.

Johnson shot a stunning 61 in the second round of this tournament 12 months ago on his way to victory with a 19-under-par total. The huge hitting star used his immense power to take advantage of the course in a dominant performance in Saudi Arabia.

With favourable conditions expected this week, Johnson should again take apart the coastal track with four low-scoring rounds.

Johnson has slipped down to fifth in the world rankings and the former world number one will be intent on returning to the top of the sport. The 35-year-old underwent knee surgery at the end of last season and returned with an encouraging performance at the Presidents Cup.

Johnson’s first individual event was the Tournament of Champions and he knocked off the rust with a tie for seventh place. A few destructive tee shots cost him in Hawaii but he will have benefited from the four rounds and a strong trophy defence is anticipated.

Johnson, who won back-to-back Pebble Beach titles early on his career, is a worthy favourite and can land an eighth European Tour victory at 15/2.

 

Tom Lewis Each Way

Tom Lewis has climbed into the top 50 of the world rankings and can consolidate this status with a big week in Saudi Arabia.

The English golfer produced another strong showing with a tie for third at the Dubai Desert Classic on Sunday. Lewis was also sixth at the DP World Tour Championship at the end of last year and secured his PGA Tour card by winning the Korn Ferry Tour Championship in September.

Lewis has positive memories of competing in the inaugural event here last season and is fancied to replicate this performance. The 29-year-old finished third in Saudi Arabia, shooting 17-under-par for his final three rounds.

The two-time Portugal Masters winner is at his best on low-scoring resort courses and his natural power lends itself to Royal Greens.

Lewis is determined to qualify for his first Masters appearance and can take a major step towards Augusta National by contending at 22/1.

 

Min Woo Lee Each Way

Min Woo Lee has a huge future ahead of him and the young Australian is fancied to threaten a first European Tour title this weekend. The former amateur star immediately took to Royal Greens last year, finishing fourth in just his second professional start.

Lee shot back-to-back rounds of 63 on the weekend to surge through the field. This relatively easy course is ideal for his effortless power with Lee ranked fifth for driving distance and third for strokes gained off the tee.

Lee has demonstrated his immense talent over the last year with a tie for fifth at the World Super 6 in Perth and third place at the Australian PGA Championship in December.

The 21-year-old started this year with an encouraging effort, finishing 15th, at the South African Open. His natural confidence is increasing and returns to Saudi Arabia with every chance of improving on last year’s superb effort.

Lee has been well backed this week but still offers each-way value at 40/1.

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, SAUDI ARABIA - FEBRUARY 02: A general view of the par five 18th hole during the third round of the Saudi International at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club on February 02, 2019 in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

 

Scott Hend Each Way

There have been a wave of Australian winners at the start of 2020 and Scott Hend could be the latest at a massive price.

Marc Leishman won at Torrey Pines on Australia Day and his success followed the recent victories from the likes of Lucas Herbert, Cameron Smith and Wade Ormsby.

The Australian bushfires have united their country and the golfers appear to be inspiring each other to success. Significantly, Hend excelled last year at this tournament with a tie for sixth place.

Hend is a three-time European Tour champion and should not be dismissed this week. The 46-year-old can still compete at this level and produced a strong showing at the Abu Dhabi Championship earlier this month with a top 20 finish.

Consistency has never been Hend’s strong suit and a missed cut during tough conditions in Dubai can be ignored. Expect him to prefer the easier conditions back at Royal Greens and he can threaten the each-way places at 175/1.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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