European Tour

Johnson 'excited' for season after second Saudi title

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Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson
PA/Supplied

World number one Dustin Johnson says he's "excited" for the rest of the season after his imperious run of form continued when he won the Saudi International for the second time in three years on Sunday.

The 36-year-old American, who finished runner-up here last year, shot a two-under par 68 in tricky conditions to tally 15-under par 265.

That eventually proved to be two shots better than the group in tied second place at 13-under par - England's Justin Rose (65) and American Tony Finau (67).

It was Johnson's third win in eight starts since winning the Northern Trust Open on the PGA Tour, a run that includes his Masters triumph as well.

His only finish outside the top-10 since finishing runner-up in the PGA Championship in August last year is a tied 11th place at this year's Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.

"It's definitely nice to get a win in an event that is not on my tour. After Augusta, to get my first win....obviously, the game's still in really good form and I'm really excited about the rest of the year," said Johnson.

"I was very pleased with the way I was swinging the club. I felt like I really controlled the golf ball well in some windy conditions. I drove it well.

"I did everything really well except for holing some putts. I am proud of winning when I didn't feel like I was completely on all cylinders as far as where everything was working well."

Johnson started the round two shots ahead of Frenchman Victor Perez and even though he missed birdie chances from inside four feet on the 10th and 12th holes, he managed to stay ahead with a solitary birdie on the par-5 fourth hole.

Rose completed his bogey-free round with a birdie on the 18th, but Johnson's closest challengers - Finau and Perez - made crucial mistakes coming down the stretch to give him enough breathing space.

Finau, searching for his first international win since the 2016 Puerto Rico Open on the PGA Tour, dropped shots on the 16th and 17th hole before a birdie on the last.

Perez short-sided himself on the par-3 16th and made a double bogey there. He eventually finished tied fourth at 12-under par alongside Scotland's Calum Hill (67).

Johnson failed to make an up and down for par on the 16th, but he hit a massive drive on the 350-yard par-4 17th hole and then chipped to less than three feet for a birdie.

A disappointed Finau said: "Unfortunately, a couple bogeys coming in, but I know how well I'm playing and I've got to just stay positive. If I keep playing at a high level and give myself a chance to win, I just know it's bound to happen."

Rose, who did not win a single title in 2020 after getting at least one international win in each of the previous 10 years, was pleased with his solid round.

"That was the best golf I played in quite some time. I did not make one putt today, the longest putt I made was seven feet for par on 16, so really a clean round of golf," said Rose about his round.

"I was in a decent position going into the final round in Dubai, seventh place and had a poor Sunday which drops you being back into making it a terrible week. So, it was nice to feel like I've come out of the three-week trip with a nice bit of positive momentum today."

Johnson's win marks the first time a reigning world No1 has won a regular European Tour event since Rory McIlroy's triumph at the 2015 Dubai Desert Classic.

With the Oman Open now cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, the next full-field event on the European Tour will be the Qatar Masters from March 11.

 

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