By MARK LORENZANA
Mexico’s Abraham Ancer dominated from start to finish as he defeated Cameron Young of the United States to win the Saudi International golf tournament on Sunday, Feb. 5, at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia.
Ancer — who was raised in Reynosa, in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, and who turned professional a decade ago — capped off his win with a 2-under 68, for a two-shot victory over Young, who is the PGA Tour’s reigning rookie of the year.
Ending a two-year drought, Ancer pocketed $1 million for winning the tournament. He took the top spot on the leaderboard on Thursday, Feb. 2., and never let go of his lead.
“That was a lot of fun and the first time I’ve been able to win wire-to-wire,” Ancer said. “I played well every single day. I kept telling myself I was in 20th place and didn’t really look at the leaderboard much. I felt pretty much in control of my game.”
Ancer, 31, became only the second Mexican to win a tournament on the Asian Tour after Carlos Espinosa’s success in 1995 at the Canlubang Classic in the Philippines.
It was the Mexican golfer’s fourth worldwide victory of his career after winning his first title in 2015, the Nova Scotia Open, the Australian Open in 2018, and after being crowned the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational champion in 2021.
Established in 2019 as a European Tour event, the Saudi International was the first European Tour event to be staged in Saudi Arabia, and was one of six European Tour events on the Arabian Peninsula. Last year, it became the flagship event on the Asian Tour with a new title sponsor, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), a Saudi government sovereign wealth fund.
Ancer, who joined the contentious LIV Golf in 2022, will have two weeks of rest before competing in LIV’s 2023 season, which will open, incidentally, in his home turf — Mexico’s Mayakoba’s El Camaleón Golf Course in the Riviera Maya, from Feb. 24 to 26.
LIV Golf, which is financed by the PIF, was founded in 2021 and named Australian entrepreneur and retired professional golfer Greg Norman as its chief executive officer. It offered lucrative fees to pull in PGA Tour players, namely, Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau — and Ancer — all of whom eventually jumped ship to LIV.
In an article in the Washington Post in June of last year, former Sports Illustrated and ESPN sports columnist Rick Reilly called LIV Golf an attempt by “Saudi Arabia to ‘sportswash’ its murderous human rights record by buying off pro golfers with stupid money.”