Masterful McDowell cruises to brilliant win at the Saudi International
Veteran Northern Irishman triumphant in King Abdullah Economic City overcoming ‘huge, world class field’
McDowell took a one-shot lead into the final round at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club and the 40-year-old used all of his 18 years’ experience on tour in a closing round of 70 to finish at 12 under – two shots clear of defending champion Dustin Johnson.
The Northern Irishman ground his way to a front nine of 36, but his fortunes changed around the turn with back-to-back birdies on the 14th and 15th holes that gave him a cushion at the top of the leaderboard. The veteran then used all his golfing nous to safely negotiate the treacherous seaside par three 16th and challenging final two holes in level par, to close out for a superb victory.
McDowell's 16th worldwide win, spanning 12 different countries, was his first European Tour victory since the 2014 Open de France and takes the former U.S Open Champion back into the world’s top 50.
“It's been ten years since I won a U.S. Open, ten years probably since I played the best golf of my life. I feel like I'm moving back in the right direction.”
Runner-up Dustin Johnson made a strong defence of a title he won 12 months ago but will rue a series of missed putts in his closing three-under par 67 that included an outrageous chip in eagle on the 4th hole.
“I'm pleased with the way I played, but I would have liked to given Graeme a little more pressure coming down the stretch,” said Johnson.
“It was really hard to make putts – but I hit a lot of really good shots.
Popular American star Phil Mickelson started his final round with a bang with three birdies in his first four holes before finishing his debut in the Kingdom with three-under 67 to finish tied runner up on -9.
“It was so fun to be back in the mix,” said 49-year old Mickelson.
Big hitting Belgian Thomas Pieters found his best form of the week with an impressive five under 65 which saw him finish with a share of third with Mickelson and Malaysia’s Gavin Green.
Green was still in contention after a solid front nine which saw birdies at the 2nd and 6th holes – but bogeys on the 10th and 11th meant he was playing catch-up to McDowell despite finishing a superb week in Saudi Arabia with a brilliant eagle on the 17th.
McDowell’s final group partner, Victor Dubuisson, started the day at -11 and one off the lead – but the Frenchman never got going on Sunday with a back nine 39 to finish with a +4 (74). World Number 1, Brooks Koepka finished his week with a +2 (72) to finish his second appearance at the Saudi International on four under. Low round of the day came from Spaniard Pablo Larrazábal who came home in 30 shots for a six under 64.
The third edition of the Saudi International returns in 2021 with McDowell confirming his intention to defend his title.
“It’s my first time in Saudi Arabia and the set-up of the course was magnificent. It’s been a brilliant event and can’t wait to return next year,” added champion McDowell.