SAUDI ARABIA – American Dustin Johnson endured a roller-coaster back nine but birdies on the last two holes handed him a two-shot win in the inaugural Saudi International on Sunday.
The 34-year-old American closed with a three-under par 67 to finish on 19-under par 261, two better than China’s Li Haotong, who made a birdie on the last to take solo second place with a 69.
England’s Tom Lewis (65) made a spirited charge, but after making five birdies in his first five holes, he ran out of steam and finished third at 264.
Australia’s Min Woo Lee, younger brother of LPGA Tour star Minjee Lee, shot a second successive round of seven-under par 63 in only his second start as a professional to finish solo fourth, one shot behind Lewis. Frenchman Alex Levy (65) was fifth on 266.
Playing in the final group after starting the day tied on 16-under par, Johnson and Li were neck and neck after eight holes with one birdie to show in their rounds. But Li moved ahead with a chipped-in birdie from a difficult position on the ninth to take a one-shot lead into the back nine.
It took a lipped-out par putt from less than two feet on the par-4 10th hole to finally wake up Johnson. He hit a brilliant tee shot on the par-3 11th to tap-in distance to catch up with Li, and then made a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-4 12th to edge ahead by a shot.
The advantage doubled on the long and tough par-4 13th hole when Li made a bogey from the greenside bunker and followed it up with another on the 14th hole.
But there was more drama to come. Johnson hit his tee shot into the Red Sea on the picturesque par-3 16th hole. He did manage to make a 15-foot putt to avoid a double bogey and the lead was down to one shot going into the final two holes.
Johnson managed to birdie both, while Li could not convert his on the 17th after hitting a wild tee shot.