Dustin Johnson believes his two-stroke win in the inaugural Saudi International on Sunday will stand him in good stead for another successful year.
The world No3 came from one stroke down at the turn to fire a three-under-par final round of 67 and see off his nearest challenger Li Haotong at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club.
The Chinese player had gone into the final 18 on a high after firing four eagles, including a record-breaking three eagle twos, in his third-round 62.
But he fell away over the second half on Sunday, a birdie on the last just enough to see him hold second over England’s fast-finishing Tom Lewis, who hit a five-under-par final round of 65.
Johnson said: “It feels really good – any time you win a professional golf tournament, no matter where it is in the world, it is a big win.
“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 my game is at.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence in what I’m doing and I feel like I’m hitting a lot of really good golf shots. It’s a big win and it gives me a lot of confidence going into the rest of the year.”
Johnson and Li went into the final round level but two early birdies gave the Chinese player the advantage at the turn.
It was a remarkable response from Li, who seven days earlier had been handed a two-stroke penalty at the Dubai Desert Classic for a breach of controversial new alignment rules.
Just when Johnson looked to have wrested the initiative he hit his tee shot into the water at the short 16th and was forced to take a drop, holing a subsequent bogey putt which saw his lead cut to one.
But Johnson responded with consecutive birdies on the final two holes to secure his first European Tour win, and one which the vanquished Li did not begrudge.
Li told a press conference: “I think he deserved to win this event. But I learned a lot and especially those last few holes were good for me.”
Lewis finished three shots off the lead after a blazing start to his final round, recording five consecutive birdies over the first five holes.
Yet his round was eclipsed by South Korea’s Lee Min-woo, who finished a stroke further back after his second consecutive seven-under-par 63.
A four-under-par final round made Ian Poulter the next best-placed Briton in sixth, while Bradley Dredge and Ross Fisher were in a share of 13th.
Former Masters champion Sergio Garcia was disqualified from the inaugural Saudi International on Saturday.
The Spaniard began his third round on one under par after opening the tournament with rounds of 69 and 70. He added a 71 on day three but was disqualified and will miss out on Sunday’s final round.
The world No27 is believed to have damaged a few greens at the Royal Greens Golf Club, slamming his putter in frustration.
Garcia thus became the first player on the European Tour to be disqualified under Rule 1.2a, which deals with serious misconduct.
Garcia apologised for his behaviour and said in a statement : “I respect the decision of my disqualification. In frustration, I damaged a couple of greens, for which I apologise, and I have informed my fellow players it will never happen again.”
Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington believes he is putting his career on the line by taking on the Ryder Cup captaincy in 2020.
Harrington won the Open Championship in 2007 and successfully defended the title the following year, before winning the US PGA Championship just three weeks later.
However, the 47-year-old is well aware of the damage a Ryder Cup defeat can do to a captain’s reputation having played under six-time major winner Sir Nick Faldo in Europe’s defeat at Valhalla in 2008.
“It’s something I did think long and hard about,” Harrington said during a press conference to announce his appointment at the European Tour’s headquarters at Wentworth.
“It’s possibly easier to be Ryder Cup captain at home, but I realise it was good timing in my career and probably the best chance for the team in an international setting, going to the US having me as captain at this time.
“Then it really came down to whether I wanted to be in the hat and put what is a successful career on the line. It is a different element to your career and we know a successful captain is great and a losing captain, it’s his fault. I am putting something on the line going out there.
“I’m well aware that it’s win or nothing, that’s the way it goes. You go out there and win and you’re a successful captain; you lose, you’re not. I’m aware that I could have passed up on this and just kept on going as a nice tournament golfer.
“When you’re a Ryder Cup captain, you’re putting the history of your game – your legacy – on the line.”
Harrington has served as a vice-captain at the last three Ryder Cups and appeared in the biennial contest against the United States six times as a player, beginning at Brookline in 1999. He was on the winning team in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2010.
He succeeds Thomas Bjorn as captain for next year’s contest at Whistling Straits, where Europe will be bidding to defend the trophy won in convincing fashion in Paris in September.
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