Dustin Johnson holds off Li Haotong challenge to win inaugural Saudi International

Dustin Johnson endured a roller-coaster back nine but birdies on the last two holes at the Royal Greens handed him a two-shot win in the inaugural Saudi International on Sunday. (Getty Images)
Updated 03 February 2019

Dustin Johnson holds off Li Haotong challenge to win inaugural Saudi International

  • 34-year-old American closed with a three-under 67 to finish on 19-under par
  • Despite missing out on glory, Haotong was delighted with his performance

LONDON: Dustin Johnson endured a roller-coaster back nine but birdies on the last two holes at the Royal Greens handed him a two-shot win in the inaugural Saudi International on Sunday.
The 34-year-old American closed with a three-under 67 to finish on 19-under par, two better than his playing partner for the day Li Haotong, who made a birdie on the last to secure a solo second placed finish.
Despite missing out on glory, Haotong was delighted with his performance in the Kingdom and was gracious in defeat.
“It was a very good match (with DJ), especially on the front nine,” he said.
“On the back nine, I was just a little off today and it wasn’t my best game there. But I’ve learned a lot and the last few holes were good for me.
“I think (Dustin) deserved to win this event.”
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.
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 fourth, one shot behind Lewis. Frenchman Alex Levy was fifth.
Lewis was particularly happy with his showing in Saudi Arabia. 
“It shows that I can go low over the Friday, Saturday and Sunday period. Hopefully, if I can just start better in some tournaments, and then carry on doing what I’m doing when I do shoot 1-over, then maybe I’ll walk away with a trophy,” he said.
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.


Man United, Inter favorites for Europa League finale

Updated 10 August 2020

Man United, Inter favorites for Europa League finale

  • All games from the quarterfinals onwards will be played as one-off ties across four venues

PARIS: Manchester United, Inter Milan and Sevilla headline a quintet of former champions traveling to Germany for a remodeled eight-team straight knockout tournament that will crown the winner of a Europa League campaign heavily disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

All games from the quarterfinals onwards in this season’s competition will be played behind closed doors as one-off ties across four venues — Cologne, Duisburg, Dusseldorf and Gelsenkirchen — following a five-month interruption.

While a Champions League berth still awaits the victor of the final in Cologne on Aug. 21, much has changed since the COVID-19 outbreak that brought European football to a standstill in March.

“There are rules and regulations on the bubble that’s going to travel. We’ve got to stick together, stay together in and around the hotel and the training ground,” United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said of the strict health protocols clubs must respect.

Players and staff will undergo virus testing before departing for Germany and again on the eve of a match once arriving, a process repeated for each subsequent game in the final tournament.

UEFA has advised teams to travel on charter flights and minimize contact with the general public, strongly recommending the use of exclusive hotels — to which players will largely be confined — in order to avoid potential cross-contamination.

Masks will not be required for substitutes and coaching staff but they must maintain social distancing when seated, with players instructed to limit contact as much as possible when warming up. Match balls will be disinfected before kickoff and at half-time.

United, the 2017 winners, face FC Copenhagen in Monday’s quarterfinal in Cologne while Serie A runners-up Inter take on Bayer Leverkusen in a clash of former UEFA Cup champions at Dusseldorf Arena.

England forward Jesse Lingard, who played in United’s 2-0 win over Ajax in the final three years ago, is confident the team can capture the title for a second time.

“We can’t wait to get there and play this game now. 100 per cent I want to win it again,” Lingard told MUTV.

“Lifting a trophy is a special feeling you can’t really explain and winning it before you take that confidence forward. We have got a mixture of youth and experience in the squad and for the young lads to win their first trophy, it will be perfect for them.”

Should United advance to the last four they would face either Sevilla — who have won the Europa League and its precursor, the UEFA Cup, a record five times — or Premier League rivals Wolves in Cologne
on Aug. 16.

Wolves are through to a first European quarterfinal since 1972 but were punished by UEFA in midweek after failing to comply with Financial Fair Play requirements. They take on Sevilla in Duisburg on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Inter beat Getafe 2-0 in a single-leg last-16 tie Wednesday in Gelsenkirchen, and Antonio Conte’s men harbor hopes of adding to the three UEFA Cups won in the 1990s.

“This is an important competition. It doesn’t matter where and under what conditions you’re playing, you should only be focused on the upcoming match,” midfielder Christian Eriksen told Inter TV.

“It’s certainly not as fun playing without fans, the atmosphere isn’t there. We’ll try to excite them while they’re watching on TV, and we’re hoping that we’ll be able to embrace our supporters again soon.”

Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk, winners of the 2009 edition, play Swiss outfit Basel in the other quarterfinal in Gelsenkirchen.

This year’s Europa League final was initially due to be played in the Polish city of Gdansk in late May before the health crisis forced a change of plans.

Gdansk will host next year’s final instead.