Dustin Johnson hopes good showing at Saudi International helps him on his Major mission

The American ace is just one of a number of big names at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. (AFP)
Updated 29 January 2019

Dustin Johnson hopes good showing at Saudi International helps him on his Major mission

  • Former world No. 1 has sights set on Saudi title and more Major glory.
  • Johnson to tee it up on Red Sea coast with a host of big names, including four of the world's top five.

LONDON: Dustin Johnson is hoping a good showing at the Saudi International will act as a springboard to a second Major. 

The big-hitting American is just one of a host of big names set to tee it up at the inaugural European Tour event in the Kingdom at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club tomorrow.

As well as the man known as “DJ”, world
No. 1 Justin Rose, three-time Major winner Brooks Koepka, and last weekend’s champion in Dubai Bryson DeChambeau will all be on the first tee in a bid to win the title — a trio that along with Johnson make up four of the world’s current top five. 

With other top-class golfers such as Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Patrick Reed also in the mix, the field is as strong as any you will find this time of year. And Johnson is hoping that pushes him to lay down a marker for the rest of the season. 

“Quite a few of the top 20 in the world will be in Saudi, so it’s a very competitive field, for sure,” the former world No. 1 said. 

“In the past, the Middle East tournaments at the start of the year have been a good marker for who’s in great form.”

Johnson’s record of five WGC titles — second only to Tiger Woods —  and 19 PGA Tour titles suggests he is worth more than the solitary Major he has won so far, the US Open in 2016. Last year he claimed three titles, but failed to challenge for that elusive second Major. A good showing on the banks of the Red Sea would certainly prove once again that he is the man to beat — if any confirmation was needed. 

But he is aware that, as with the field at the Saudi International, the strength in depth in world golf is as strong as his booming drives are long. 

“The competition is so fierce, and there are so many guys pushing for the big titles and in the world rankings,” Johnson  said. “The obvious ones are the players up in the top 10 currently, and it’s pretty close between me, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas at the moment. You also have players who can get on a hot streak and are suddenly pushing into the top five, such as Xander Schauffele after his win in Hawaii.”

The 34-year-old, however, is feeling good and looking for a win this weekend to set up an even more successful 2019. 

“My golf swing feels great and I have a lot of confidence in it,” Johnson said. 

“I’m driving the ball well, and I’ve been working on the short game, hitting a lot of wedges. I’m happy with where I’m at and really looking forward to the season ahead.”

Even at the best of times, predicting golf is a fool’s game — and this week at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club could well confirm that view. It will be the first time 99 per cent of the field will have played the course and if the wind picks up off the Red Sea, it could be anyone’s title. 

“The golf course looks great and after speaking to the other guys it sounds like a very interesting place to come and play a golf tournament,” Johnson added. “The field is set to be very strong, so any chance to play against the best players in the world is tough to turn down.”


Shan Masood ‘has proved himself in England’ as marathon century puts Pakistan on top

Updated 07 August 2020

Shan Masood ‘has proved himself in England’ as marathon century puts Pakistan on top

  • Masood becomes one of just six Pakistan batsmen to have scored a hundred in three consecutive Test innings
  • His Test-best 156 was the cornerstone of Pakistan’s first-innings 326 all out, with England slumping to 12-3 in reply

Manchester: Pakistan coach Misbah-ul-Haq said Shan Masood had “proved himself in England” after the opener’s superb hundred helped leave the tourists well-placed in the first Test at Old Trafford on Thursday.
Masood’s Test-best 156 was the cornerstone of Pakistan’s first-innings 326 all out, with England slumping to 12-3 in reply.
The hosts ended the second day on 92-4 — a deficit of 264 runs — with star all-rounder Ben Stokes out for a duck and England captain Joe Root falling for 14.
Masood batted for nearly eight hours in difficult conditions and in the process joined Misbah and team batting coach Younis Khan as one of just six Pakistan batsmen to have scored a hundred in three consecutive Test innings.
This century following Masood’s 135 against Sri Lanka in Karachi in December and 100 against Bangladesh in Rawalpindi in February.
Yet the 30-year-old left-hander averaged a meagre 17.75 during Pakistan’s 2016 tour of England.
Masood stood firm in Manchester even though he was twice reprieved by Jos Buttler on 45, the wicketkeeper dropping a catch and missing a stumping off spinner Dom Bess.
“It was an excellent performance by him, especially against a seam attack of (Stuart) Broad, (James) Anderson, (Chris) Woakes and (Jofra) Archer, and against an off-spinner (Bess) that was bowling well on a pitch where there was turn,” said Misbah of the English-educated Masood’s fourth hundred in 21 Tests.
“It was good application and his hard work has paid off.
“Now he has proved himself here in England, so I’m really pleased, especially as it’s not (just) a hundred, (but) a big hundred.
“Still, we would have been in trouble if he only scored a hundred. But hundred-and-fifty plus, and through the innings, that was really special.”
A good day for Pakistan got even better with Stokes clean bowled for nought by Mohammad Abbas during a slump that had the hosts three down inside six overs.
Abbas also removed opener Dom Sibley on his way to close figures of 2-24 in seven overs, with towering left-arm quick Shaheen Afridi making the initial breakthrough with just the fourth ball of the innings when Rory Burns was plumb lbw.
“I’m so happy — it’s crucial for you to take wickets with the new ball especially when the game is like this and you are playing with just 326 runs on the board,” said Misbah.
Ollie Pope was 46 not out at stumps, with Buttler unbeaten on 15.
Archer, who took 3-59, backed the fifth-wicket duo to stage a recovery.
“I rate Jos highly, he’s a very talented batter and there’s no doubt him and Popey can dig us out of a hole and put on a really big partnership and swing the momentum in our favor,” said the fast bowler.
The day started brilliantly for England when, with Thursday’s sixth ball, James Anderson had Babar Azam edging to first-slip Root for 69 without Pakistan having then added to their overnight 139.
But the resolute Masood remained and received excellent support from Shadab Khan (45) in a stand of 105 after Pakistan had been struggling at 176-5.
Pakistan managed just 48 runs for the loss of three wickets in Thursday’s first session to reach 187-5 at lunch.
But with five overs until the new ball, Root then bowled his own occasional off-breaks in tandem with Bess immediately after the interval.
Masood and Shadab responded by adding 27 in those overs as they ran England ragged.
Shadab holed out off Bess but Masood cruised through the 90s, with two late-cut fours off Broad taking him to 96 before he completed his first Test hundred against England.
Playing a textbook opener’s innings, he then upped the tempo by hoisting and driving Bess for two sixes.
Masood eventually fell lbw after tea to Broad, having faced 319 balls in an innings that also included 18 fours.