Dustin Johnson in the $3.5 million Saudi International, managed to rise against all odds of a controversial week with a triumphant win.
Winning his very first European Tour tournament by three shots over China’s Haotong Li, the world No. 3 returned a 3-under-par 67 in the final round to go with scores of 68-61-65 for a 19-under 261 total to bag home a $583,000 first-place check and a move up to No. 2 in the World Ranking.
Johnson’s win was the perfect glimpse of hope that the tournament organizers needed, considering the controversy surrounding the European Tour’s decision to host the event following the House of Saud’s alleged murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its Turkish consulate last year. Sergio Garcia’s dramatic third-round disqualification due to an outrage that resulted in five damaged putting greens, had also added greater fuel to the fire as it garnered greater controversy for the tournament in Saudi Arabia
Despite the public uproar towards the event, the organizers still remained positive in light of the tournament win.
“The future of the game in Saudi has never been so bright. Our congratulations to Dustin Johnson on such a masterful performance” said Yasir Al-Rumayyan, chairman of the Saudi Golf Federation, the tournament organizer. “We are honored to have such a worthy champion, who has helped us create history and showcase a modern Saudi to the world.”
These were, no doubt, not enough to shun the spotlight off of the vigorous and tight competition between Johnson and Li. Putting up a splendid and resilient comeback, Li made up for his disappointing dip from T-3 to T-12 and two-shot penalty by scoring a solid 62 that included an amazing four eagles—three on par 4 holes—to move into the final group again.
Shooting a course-record 61 followed by a 65, Johnson found himself tied with Li before the final round. Although Li’s persistent effort landed him a stroke ahead of Johnson in the final round, he stumbled and bogeyed three of his next five holes. In turn, Johnson played those holes in one under and overtook Li by two strokes.
“It was a very good match, especially the front nine when I was playing really good,” said Li, who made $388,880 after finishing second place. “The back nine, I was just a little bit off. It wasn’t my best over there today again. But I learn a lot and especially that last few holes was good for me. I think he deserved to win this event.”
“I’m very happy with the week. When I had four holes left, I looked at the leaderboard. I had dropped to third place and so I’m very happy to finish solo second.”
“It’s definitely very nice to get the first win of the year and my first European Tour victory,” Johnson said. “I’m very pleased with it. We had a great field here this week. I didn’t play my best today, but I found a way to get it done.”
“Any time you can win a professional golf tournament, no matter where it is in the world, it’s a big win. I’m honored to be the champion, and I’m very pleased with the win.”Leave a comment