Dustin Johnson won the the European Tour’s debut event in Saudi Arabia (the Saudi International powered by SBIA, to give it its proper name) on Sunday, prevailing by two shots from China’s Haotong Li. It is probably true to say that the most publicity attached to the event after it was over, as opposed to all the ‘they shouldn’t be playing there anyway’ sort of publicity beforehand, was also of the unwelcome variety, focusing on Sergio Garcia’s disqualification on Saturday for gouging a few greens in his immense frustration at his poor play – shocking behaviour even if he was not a major champion and the highest points earner in Ryder Cup history. When he said: “I have informed my fellow players it will never happen again”, he had better be right.
My story here is not about that but about happenings towards the top of the leaderboard on the afternoon that Garcia so ignominiously exited the event. During that third round, Li had four eagles. Yes, four. Even more extraordinarily, three of them came on par-fours. He holed out from off the green on the opening hole and again on the 10th. On the 17th, a 350-yard par-four, he drove the green and made the putt from six feet for his two. The final hole was a 607-yard par-five where he made a more conventional eagle, this time from nine feet after another excellent approach shot. It all added up to a 62 at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club.
Then came his press conference. “I think it’s very, very lucky today,” Li said. Of his two at the first hole, he said: “If it didn’t go in the hole, it could have been off the green. It’s a very lucky eagle there.” On the 10th, he got “a lucky bounce…very lucky, too”. The 17th he took the credit for but as for the three on the 18th, that “was another lucky bounce there…it bounced over the bunker, which is lucky”.
I’m not sure whether this rather endearing exchange was more down to Li’s comparatively sparse English vocabulary, his punctilious honesty or a tendency to be modest beyond reason. Whatever, he clearly would be the last guy to protest that if it wasn’t for bad luck he would have no luck at all.
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