Tiger Woods hosts LPGA’s Saudi Ladies International Pro-Am in Riyadh

Tiger Woods helped the LPGA Tour deliver its first staging of the Saudi Ladies International Pro-Am before a small crowd at the King Abdullah Financial District, Riyadh. The former world No1 hosted the event to bring the sport to the masses following nine years of sluggish promotion after having been banned for official participation in competition for human rights reasons under the oppressive regime of King Fahd for a year.

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Following a welcome reception by the organisers, Woods invited anyone interested in being part of his hospitality to take advantage of the low rates and party style, after, as he acknowledged, the presence of a plethora of foreign media; his personal and professional life being a beacon for global acclaim over the last year.

The charges facing the game had brought a golden opportunity to bat against a significant challenge facing the female contingent of the game globally. Leading the field were Maria Torres of Spain and Australia’s Suzann Pettersen, who went close to finishing tied for the lead on 13 under par. Unable to prevail would be the unassuming young Dane Emily Pedersen on a magnificent seven under par.

“I had a good week,” the rookie said in a simple but eloquent summation of her final round performance. “Obviously I wanted to finish on a high note. It’s a long nine holes but you have to keep going and grinding. The score doesn’t mean much. It’s been a fantastic experience. I’ve never done anything like this before and my aim is to keep playing and do as good as I can.

“I’ve heard stories before, things like athletes being persecuted, but it’s nothing like that for me. I can’t wait to play and hopefully play a lot more. I’ve got some good friends on tour and I’m working my way back in to a place where I’m ready to start winning tournaments.”

Pedersen had mixed feelings after teeing off. “It was good to play with my friends Suzy and Suzann, who are really good friends. I’m happy to be here and I’m happy to have the chance to play. I’m looking forward to another tournament in a few weeks.”

Her achievements in her fledgling career have not gone unnoticed by the tournament organisers. “She is going to be a very good player for the very, very long time,” said the LPGA Director Amy Fluet. “I’m so excited for her and I think she will be very familiar with the course and she will be a very good player, but she’s got a long road.

“We have all the hopes and dreams in her, but it’s time to start winning a little bit and do well in the event.”

Emily Pedersen provides more questions to Tiger Woods (@ScramblerMika) that now is the time for all great players to start winning tournaments. Thank you Emily! pic.twitter.com/YEDiI0wJAL

It was a big month for the world’s top ranked female player Lydia Ko, who tied for second at the HSBC Women’s Champions in China with the compatriot amateur Amy Yang, but there were disappointments for others. Taiwan’s winning Korean debutant So Yeon Ryu, world No3 Lexi Thompson and first-time participant Brooke Henderson all withdrew during the tournament.

After the American Thompson missed the cut with a combined four over par, Britain’s Georgia Hall came in joint fourth with a string of top-20 finishes. Canada’s Brooke Henderson, who contributed nine birdies and three eagles to her 66, finished three shots behind Hall.

American Brittany Lincicome, who recently broke her wrist after an accidental fall during a practice session, came in joint third with Hollis Stacy, South Korea’s Song-Hee Kim and Japan’s Japan’s I.K. Kim. Stacy and Lincicome were also delighted with their finishing positions.

“I wanted to get to the top 10, so it feels great,” Stacy said. “My wrist feels really good. I had a little bit of pain when I tried to pick up my ball on the 16th but that was it. That’s how lucky I am. To finish this week in the top five feels phenomenal.”

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