Dustin Johnson earned his second Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers title in three years after holding off the chasing pack to secure a two-stroke victory at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club.
The World Number One started the day with a two-stroke advantage and he was pushed all the way by playing partner Victor Perez and compatriot Tony Finau, who briefly pulled level with Johnson on the back nine.
The reigning Masters Champion closed out victory by responding to his only dropped shot of the day at the 16th with a birdie at the 17th to finish with a closing two under par round of 68 for a winning 15 under total.
Finau marked his debut in Saudi Arabia with a tie for second place on 13 under par with England’s Justin Rose, whose joint runner-up result is his best European Tour finish since he won the 2018 Turkish Airlines Open. A shot further back in a tie for fourth place on 12 under par was Scotland’s Calum Hill, who secured his best European Tour result to date, and France’s Perez, whose challenge was effectively ended by a double bogey five on the 16th as he signed for a 69.
The triumph is Johnson’s first victory since winning his first Green Jacket at the Masters Tournament in November and continues his excellent record in Saudi Arabia after winning the maiden edition of the event in 2019 before finishing second to Graeme McDowell in 2020.
“It was a really good week. I felt like I played really solid every day. Gave myself a lot of chances. Didn’t putt quite as well as I’d like to, but obviously well enough to get a victory today.
“But conditions were tough, especially a couple of the days, but I felt like I struck it very well. I drove it really good. So I gave myself a ton of chances. But yeah, just obviously I’m very pleased with the win and very excited but I’m going to have to go home and work on the putting a bit I think.
“It’s tough to win on the European Tour, PGA TOUR, no matter what ranking you are. But yeah, obviously winning as Number One is definitely good, and obviously it gives me a little bit more of a lead. It gives me a lot of confidence going in for the rest of the year. Obviously we’re at the beginning of the year, so pleased with how I’m playing and looking forward to the rest of the year.
“I don’t get to play around the world as much as I’d like to, but yeah, it’s definitely nice to get a win [not on the PGA TOUR]. After Augusta, to get my first win again, obviously the game’s still in really good form and I’m really excited about the rest of the year.”
“That was the best golf I played in quite some time. I won’t go crazy like Poults but I did not make one putt today; longest putt I made was seven feet for par on 16 so really clean round of golf. I didn’t putt poorly at all. Was quite aggressive with my putting. I was getting them to the hole and rolling them two- or three-foot by and kept making the ones coming back in the middle, so I felt confident in my putting all day but couldn’t get them to fall.
“I guess I was in decent position going into the final round in Dubai, seventh place and had a poor Sunday and drops you back into making it a terrible week. Nice to feel like I’ve come out of the three-week trip with a nice bit of positive momentum today.
“I’ve been working on a lot of stuff but really staying patient. I haven’t been playing my best golf and easy to get frustrated. I’ve kind of stayed with it, even though this three-week trip, it felt like it’s been slow going, and good golf hasn’t been rewarded and I’ve made silly mistakes. Momentum hasn’t quite been on my side yet. So to play a bogey-free 65 on a Sunday is something to kind of take and fuel the upcoming run.”
“I’ve enjoyed my time here. A little bittersweet at the moment. I knew I could put some pressure on DJ going into 16 and made a couple bogeys unfortunately on 16 and 17. But I’ve enjoyed my week. The golf course is good. Enjoy playing on the European Tour when I have the opportunity and when my schedule allows, and yeah, I’ll definitely be back. But I think it was a positive week and one that I’ll continue to grow on.
“Really early in the calendar year and a lot of great golf ahead of us. Major championships to look forward to and WGC events. It’s nice to have the game in a good place early in the calendar year and get some confidence from that.
“DJ is obviously a hell of a player, favourite going into this week. And it was good going toe-to-toe with him there kind of down the stretch and I don’t think it will be the last time we’re going to run into each other.
“I think more encouraging [than frustrating]. I was able to make some putts I feel like were big on the back nine, or early on the back nine that gave me a chance. I was floating three or four back going into 11 and knew I was running out of holes to make something happen. I was happy I was able to make a run there in the middle of the back nine.
“Unfortunately a couple bogeys coming in, but I know how well I’m playing and I’ve got to just keep positive. If I keep playing at a high level and give myself a chance to win, I just know it’s bound to happen. I think I’ve got to keep encouraged and again as I mentioned, it’s really, really early in the calendar year. I’m just happy that I’ve got a few solid rounds under my belt early in 2021.
“I drove it really good, and I think from 150 in I was really good. So it took a lot of pressure off my short game and so I think I hit a lot of greens and I actually didn’t feel like I putted that well. I did make some putts from range but I didn’t putt well enough I feel like from close.
“I think at the end of the week, that’s what I’m going to look back on as a weakness in my game I need to bet better at to close out some of these tournaments. I have to make some of those putts from a little bit closer.”