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.”