Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 24 May 2019

Dustin Johnson 'pleased with where game is at' after winning inaugural Saudi International

American birdies final two holes to card 67 and secure two-shot win ahead of playing partner Li Haotong

Dustin Johnson celebrates on the 18th green during the final round of the Saudi International at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images
Dustin Johnson celebrates on the 18th green during the final round of the Saudi International at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images

World No 3 Dustin Johnson won the inaugural Saudi International on Sunday to capture his first regular European Tour title.

The American, one of the headline acts in Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Economic City, birdied the final two holes to card a 67 and secure a two-shot win ahead of playing partner Li Haotong. Johnson finished on 19 under par.

The final day was always set to be a battle between Johnson and his Chinese rival, with the pair beginning the day locked at the top of the leaderboard on 16-under – five shots better off than their closest competitor.

The victory marked Johnson’s 11th worldwide since the beginning of 2016 – more than any other player in that period.

“It feels really good,” said the former world No 1, who took home a cheque for US$583,330 (Dh2.14 million). “Any time you can win a professional golf tournament, no matter where it is in the world, it's a big win. I'm honoured to be the champion.

“Haotong was one ahead on the back nine, but I knew I was playing well enough to make up some strokes and I didn't let it bother me. I just played my game and kept on trying to make birdies.

"It's been a great week for me coming here to Saudi Arabia for the first time. The things that I've been working on are working and I've still got a lot of room for improvement. I'm very pleased with where the game is at. To get a win here... gives me a lot of confidence for the rest of the year."

The tournament represented Saudi Arabia’s introduction to the professional golf circuit, and featured world No 1 Justin Rose and No 2 Brooks Koepka, as well as recent Dubai winner Bryson DeChambeau, 2016 British Open champion Henrik Stenson and 2017 US Masters champion Sergio Garcia. Garcia was disqualified on Saturday for “serious misconduct”, believed to be for damaging greens in anger.

However, the final round came down to a straight shootout between Johnson and Li. Li, a two-time winner on the European Tour, led briefly on Sunday after a birdie on the ninth moved him one stroke ahead.

Johnson, who drew first blood by birdieing the second, then claimed back-to-back birdies on 11 and 12 to leap back in front. Li’s challenge appeared to have ended once he bogeyed the next two holes 13, but Johnson dropped a shot on the 16th to ensure the tournament went right down to the wire.

Li, the 2018 Omega Dubai Desert Classic champion, birdied the 72nd hole to keep England’s Tom Lewis at bay.

“I’m very happy to finish solo second,” he said. “It was a very good battle, especially on the front nine when I was playing really well. The back nine I was just a little bit off, but I learned a lot and especially those last few holes were good for me.

"I think DJ deserved to win this event.”

Updated: February 3, 2019 08:16 PM

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