RECORD-BREAKING DUSTIN JOHNSON CHARGES ON SECOND DAY OF INAUGURAL SAUDI INTERNATIONAL POWERED BY SBIA
Big-hitting American fires round of 61 to set new course record at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club
International chasing pack includes would-be contenders from Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe and South America
Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – Date, 2019: World No.3 Dustin Johnson fired an imperious 61 to set a new course record at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club and sit atop the leaderboard at 11 under par in the inaugural Saudi International powered by SBIA.
At the tournament midpoint Johnson leads a global pack of contenders from five continents, including South African Zander Lombard and Haotong Li of China, who are three shots back on eight under par. Paraguayan Fabrizio Zanotti and Scott Hend of Australia are another stroke behind on seven under par. A quartet of players – Englishman Chris Paisley, Frenchman Alexander Levy, New Zealand’s Ryan Fox and South Africa’s Richard Sterne – are one further back on six under.
In idyllic weather on the Red Sea in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), a surging Johnson - who started on the back nine - notched two consecutive birdies on holes 10 and 11, before adding another pair of birdies on the par four 15th and par five 18th.
Having reached the turn at six under par, Johnson’s hot streak continued with a birdie on hole two, before a 15-foot putt for eagle from off the green on hole four propelled him to the top of the leaderboard. Further birdies on holes six and seven completed an error-free card and moved Johnson to 11 under par.
“It was a very good round,” said Johnson. “I played really solid all day and gave myself a lot of opportunities. I was just trying to keep getting my score lower and lower. I like the golf course. 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.”
Right behind the American, Li, ranked 44th in the world and a two-time European Tour winner, continued his solid form by carding a round of 65 featuring six birdies.
“I’m enjoying this place and love the course, everything has been going well. We always have some new and different challenges for us for on the European Tour.” said Li.
After a steady start, Zander Lombard - who began the second round on hole 10 and started the day at five under par, two shots behind overnight leader Thomas Pieters - burst into life with a chip-in for eagle on the 18th hole. Lombard eventually carded a round of 67 to end the day tied with Li.
“It was definitely easier to score today. I didn't play really good golf, but I managed to control my misses,” said Lombard. “All in all, I’m happy with three under. I see the boys are tearing it up and the greens are getting smoother as the week goes on, so I’m looking for some low scores on the weekend.”
With Johnson leading the way, his fellow Americans and headline draws Bryson DeChambeau, at four under, Patrick Reed, at two under, and Brooks Koepka, at one under, will all go the tournament distance. The trio will be confident of mounting leaderboard challenges in calmer morning conditions at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club on Saturday.
“The wind doesn't pick up really until the afternoon, so in the morning you definitely have a good opportunity to shoot a low number,” said Koepka.
However, world No.1 Justin Rose failed to make the cut after a round of 72 in blustery afternoon winds left the Englishman two over par after 36 holes. Rose joins fellow Europeans Henrik Stenson, Thomas Bjorn and Lee Westwood in exiting the tournament. Saudi Arabia’s Othman Almulla, making his first tournament start as a professional, also missed the cut.
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