Saudi International: Dustin Johnson heads star-spangled field

The world number one will be making the trip east along with last week's winner at Torrey Pines, Patrick Reed, in what looks to be a stellar field for the third staging of this event.

Matthew Crist

There will be a strong American presence when the European Tour’s ‘desert trilogy’ reaches its conclusion this weekend at Royal Greens for the Saudi International.

Former champion Dustin Johnson will be making the trip east along with last week’s winner at Torrey Pines, Patrick Reed in what looks to be a stellar field for the third staging of this event.

Other notable entrants from the PGA Tour include five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau and Kevin Na, who won the recent Sony Open, will be making his first trip to Saudi Arabia and will be playing in his first European Tour event since 2015.

World No.1, Johnson, has been at every one of the tournament’s three stagings to date and is yet to disappoint, having won the inaugural Saudi International in 2019, while finishing second 12 months ago.

He closed out 2020 by finishing runner-up at the US PGA Championship; winning the Northern Trust; finishing second at the BMW Championship; winning the Tour Championship; finishing T6 at the US Open; finishing runner-up at the Houston Open and winning the Masters.

Tyrell Hatton Golf

“I am really looking forward to returning to Saudi Arabia for a third consecutive year,” Johnson said. “I’ve really enjoyed both of my visits and love the golf course, as evidenced by my win and runner-up finish.”

But the Americans will face stiff competition from a European contingent that includes Rafa Cabrera-BelloPaul CaseyTommy Fleetwood, Abu Dhabi HSBC champion, Tyrrell Hatton, Martin Kaymer, Ian Poulter, Viktor Hovland, Lee Westwood, Danny Willett and Matt Wallace.

Reigning Open champion Shane Lowry, 2013 US Open winner Justin Rose, 2016 Open champion Henrik Stenson and 2017 Masters champion Sergio Garcia will also be looking to get their year off to a good start as they aim to secure their places in the European Ryder Cup team for Whistling Straits.

Shane Lowry has made no secret of his ambition to qualify for his first Ryder Cup, saying; “I really do want to get off to a fast start in 2021 and try and secure my place in the team early if possible! I can’t imagine how stressful it will be if I am outside qualifying for the team as we get closer to the final qualifying events.

“The Saudi International is going to be a huge week for us all in terms of the strength of field and world ranking points available with so many of the world’s top-ranked playing, so a decent finish is going to make a major impact on our qualification chances.”

Viktor Hovland is something of a rising star of world golf and, at 23-years-old, he sits at a career-high ranking of 14th in the World Rankings after his second PGA Tour win.

McDowell

He only turned professional in 2019 after finishing as low amateur at the 2019 Masters and the 2019 US Open and reaching the top of the Amateur World Rankings.

Though his transition into the professional ranks has been impressive and he will make his debut in Saudi Arabia as he too joins those looking to be on the plane to Wisconsin in September.

Defending champion, Graeme McDowell, was a hugely popular winner last year as a 12 under par total saw him add an 11th European Tour title to his resume and returns this year aiming for a repeat of that success.

“From the high of winning the 2020 Saudi International in February against such an amazing field we very quickly had to contend with all that COVID-19 has thrown at us since so I think I was lucky to be able to hold onto that awesome winning feeling through the darker parts of lockdown,” the 2010 US Open winner said.

“I am really looking forward to getting 2020 over and having a fresh start to 2021 and, from what I’ve heard about how the field is shaping up, it sounds like almost everyone has decided to make that fresh start in Saudi Arabia.”

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