DUSTIN JOHNSON WINS SAUDI INTERNATIONAL POWERED BY SBIA AFTER DRAMATIC DUEL IN THE SUN
American World No.3 keeps Haotong Li at bay to make history at first-ever European Tour event in Saudi Arabia
Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - Sunday February 3, 2019: World No.3 Dustin Johnson held his nerve in a dramatic duel in the sun to clinch the inaugural Saudi International powered by SBIA, the first-ever European Tour event in Saudi Arabia.
Having shot rounds of 68, 61 and 65 to sit 16 under par going into the title showdown alongside co-leader Haotong Li of China, the American shot a steady final round of 67 to seal a two-stroke victory at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC).
“It feels really good. 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,” said Johnson, who won $583,330. “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.”
Li, a two-time European Tour winner, led briefly after a birdie on the ninth hole put him one stroke ahead. Johnson then struck back-to-back birdies on holes 11 and 12 to move back in front. Li’s challenge seemed to have ended after consecutive bogeys on holes 13 and 14, but Johnson bogey on the 16th ensured the pair’s titanic tussle would go the distance.
“I’m very happy to finish solo second,” said Li, who ended the tournament at 17 under par. “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.”
With Li and Johnson going head-to-head, Tom Lewis thrust himself into contention with five straight birdies to open his round. The Englishman’s challenge faded on the back nine, however, and he finished third overall at 16 under par.
Against the stunning backdrop of the Red Sea, it was a fittingly exciting conclusion to a new chapter in Saudi sporting history.
“We were always confident the Saudi International powered by SBIA would set a new marker for world-class sporting events in Saudi Arabia - and so it has proved,” said His Excellency Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Chairman of the Saudi Golf Federation, the tournament organiser.
“The astounding success of our inaugural event is evident in the thousands of Saudis who have embraced the sport this week. The Federation’s multi-faceted work to grow the game extends beyond this marquee championship and will build on the tremendous traction gained in developing the sport at every level.
“The future of the game in Saudi has never been so bright. Our congratulations to Dustin Johnson on such a masterful performance. We are honoured to have such a worthy champion, who has helped us create history and showcase a modern Saudi to the world.”
Majed Sorour, CEO of the SGF, insisted the standard of golf on show and the strong level of interest from fans of all ages demonstrated the Federation is on the right track in its mission to grow the game in Saudi and beyond.
“We have been moved by how much the players and our partners have embraced the Saudi International powered by SBIA and congratulate Dustin on such an impressive victory,” said Sorour.
“We could not have asked for a better backdrop than Royal Greens Golf & Country Club and King Abdullah Economic City to help showcase the vision for golf in Saudi Arabia. We are also truly humbled by the thousands of fans that have been introduced to the game this week, both on the course and in the Entertainment Village. Children of all ages have experienced the game for the first time at free clinics and the result has been instantaneous, with hundreds of potential Saudi champions of the future enrolling in the Federation’s junior development programmes.”