What we learned from the Desert Swing: Dominant Dustin Johnson and sorry Sergio Garcia

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Dustin Johnson become the inaugural winner of the Saudi International on Sunday. (AFP)
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Updated 04 February 2019

What we learned from the Desert Swing: Dominant Dustin Johnson and sorry Sergio Garcia

  • American ace DJ underlines why he could be the man to beat this year.
  • European Tour show lack of backbone after Garcia tantrum.

LONDON: So the Desert Swing is over for another year. This year saw a new tournament in town, the Saudi International completing the trio of Middle-East based battles. Here is what we learned after all birdies, bogeys and booming drives.

DUSTIN JOHNSON LAYS DOWN A MARKER

The American ace’s win at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club was his first for seven months and once again reminded us and his rivals, if any was needed, that when on song it takes some performance to stop him. Under pressure from the brilliant Haotong Li the world No. 3 did what all greats do when required — turned on his A-game and swatted away the challenge. Two birdies on 17 and 18 illustrated “DJ’s” class and nerveless pursuit of victory. Despite all the tour titles to his name, there is a sense that the 34-year-old has underachieved with only one Major victory. This win and the manner of it sets Johnson up for a successful stab at adding to his Major collection, starting with the Masters in April.

EUROPEAN TOUR ILLUSTRATES IT LACKS TEETH

Bar Johnson’s victory, the other talking point from the Saudi International was the disqualification of Sergio Garcia for damaging as many as five greens during a bad-tempered third round. The Spaniard apologized for his actions and said it will not happen again. Those words, however, should not have been the end of the matter. Garcia may be a big-name player but, rather than declare the matter “closed as Tour chief Keith Pelley did, the European Tour had to show that star status does not mean you can get away with anything. It was the time to show it has teeth and issue a meaningful fine and even a ­suspension from the Tour.

BRYSON DECHAMBEAU IS UNIQUE

The American won by a mammoth seven shots at the Dubai Desert Classic and illustrated why he is golf’s man of the moment. But his uniqueness is both refreshing and annoying. Known as the “scientist,” DeChambeau says he is leaving nothing to chance while out on the fairways and greens. Methodical and mesmerizing in equal measure the American can prove frustrating as well. In an age when golf is trying to speed up play to see the world No.5 take an age over many of his shots — he had a very lengthy discussion with his caddie on a fairly straightforward shot during the final round in Dubai — proved problematic, and not just for the fans. “I just don’t understand how it takes a minute and 20 seconds, a minute and 15 to hit a golf ball; it’s not that hard,” world No. 2 Brooks Koepka said.

TIME FOR SHANE LOWRY AND TOM LEWIS TO SHINE

The Desert Swing shone a light on two golfers who have struggled over the past few years — Shane Lowry and Tom Lewis. Lowry was brilliant in winning in Abu Dhabi, following that up with a top-15 finish in Dubai. He is now back in the world’s top 50, which is where someone of his talent should be. Lewis has had a rough few years, unable to transfer his precocious talent to the professional circuit. Victory in last year’s Portugal Masters was followed up with a top-10 finish in the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in November, and that has been followed up with impressive form this year. Ninth in Abu Dhabi was bettered with a third-place finish at the Saudi International. This time last year he was languishing at 394th in the world rankings. He is now at 55 and close to an invite to the Masters.

HAOTONG LI STAR ON THE RISE

The 23-year-old had an impressive Desert Swing, underlining his status as China’s first major golfing star. He followed up the defense of his Dubai title — where he finished tied 12th — with runner-up spot at the Saudi International. With his best years well ahead of him, Haotong Li can really make a name for himself as he did over the past few weeks, not least with his remarkable third-round 62. That was sparked by four eagles, but most impressively, Li made three of those eagles on par 4s.

 


Anthony Joshua wins Clash on the Dunes in Saudi Arabia on points against Andy Ruiz Jr.

Updated 08 December 2019

Anthony Joshua wins Clash on the Dunes in Saudi Arabia on points against Andy Ruiz Jr.

  • British boxer won by a unanimous decision
  • New champion thanked Saudi Arabia for hosting the fight

RIYADH: Anthony Joshua reclaimed his world heavyweight title belts after a points decision over Andy Ruiz Jr. in the Clash on the Dunes on Sunday morning in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.

The British boxer won by a unanimous decision from the judges after outboxing Ruiz Jr., especially in the later rounds.

In the first heavyweight title fight to be held in the Middle East, Joshua dominated a self-proclaimed "overweight" Ruiz Jr. over 12 solid, but largely uninspiring, rounds to win back the WBA, WBO and IBF belts, and avengeget revenge for his shock upset by his Mexican-American opponent six months ago in New York.

“Sometimes simplicity is genius. I was outclassing the champion,” Joshua said.

“I am used to knocking people out, but last time I got hurt so I gave the man his credit. I said I would correct myself again.

“I just wanted to put on a great boxing masterclass and also show the sweet science of this lovely sport. It’s about hitting and not getting hit.

British boxer Anthony Joshua, right, regained his world heavyweight title last night in front of 30,000 fight fans in a thrilling contest at the new Diriyah arena outside Riyadh, against the Mexican-American Andy Ruiz Jr.  (Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing , Dave Thompson/Matchroom and Ian Walton/Matchroom)

"Sometimes with certain fighters you have to box smarter. I understand what Andy brought to the table so I had to decapitate him in a different way,” he said.

Ruiz Jr. admitted he hadn't trained well enough for the rematch and got “boxed around.”

“The partying got the best of me," he said.  “I didn’t prepare how I should have. I gained too much weight. I don’t want to give excuses, he won ... If we do a third fight, you best believe I’m going to get in shape. I’ll be in the best shape of my life.”

Joshua immediately paid tribute to his opponent after the fight, thanking the Mexican fighter and his family, Saudi Arabia for hosting and the traveling fans who made the journey to the Kingdom.