Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 August 2019

Dustin Johnson hits 61 to lead Saudi International as Justin Rose misses cut

World No 3 hits seven birdies and an eagle to open up a three-shot advantage in Saudi Arabia

Dustin Johnson leads by three shots at the Saudi International. Getty
Dustin Johnson leads by three shots at the Saudi International. Getty

The Saudi International may only be two days old but world No 3 Dustin Johnson set a course record that could take some beating in the years to come.

The world No 3 lit up the first staging of the European Tour event in Saudi Arabia at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City as he hit seven birdies and an eagle to card a nine-under 61.

That left the American not only as the course record holder, but with a handy three-shot lead on 11-under at the halfway stage of the competition.

The American had started with a 68 on Thursday but believed his transformation in form was simply down to better play on the greens.

"It was really good," the 2016 US Open winner of his round. "Obviously you always have fun when you're playing well, but yeah, I did a lot of the same things I did yesterday.

"The greens rolled a little bit better today. I felt like I paid a lot more attention to exactly what the putts were going to do and just kind of tried to make sure I just trusted the line that I was playing and made some putts today. You know, drove it really well and gave myself a lot of opportunities."

The par-70 course is a new challenge for all the players and Johnson said he was enjoying his first experiences of it.

"Yeah, I like the golf course," he added. "Keep driving it like the way I am right now - I switched to the M6 driver this week, and I really like it. I'm driving it really well right now, so if I keep hitting it in the fairway, I'm going to really like this golf course."

Haotong Li, the 2018 Omega Dubai Desert Classic winner, leads the chasing pack behind Johnson on eight-under after a round of 65. He is level in second spot with South African Zander Lombard.

Fabrizio Zanotti and Scott Hend share fourth spot on seven-under, while Richard Sterne, runner-up at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA two weeks ago, is among four players on six-under, five shots off Johnson.

The big surprise was the exit of world No 1 Justin Rose. The Englishman carded a second round of 72 that left him two-over for the tournament and packing his bags early as he missed the cut.

World No 2 Brooks Koepka has yet to find his range on the course, but made it through to the weekend with a 70 to be one-under, while world No 5 Bryson DeChambeau, who won in Dubai last weekend, is in a tie for 12th on four-under.

Updated: February 1, 2019 09:24 PM



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