Johnson takes lead at Saudi International

Haotong Li, the 2018 Omega Dubai Desert Classic victor, leads the chasing pack behind Johnson on eight-under after a round of 65. Obviously the game is in good form and I'm heading into three really big weeks for me.

"The wind doesn't pick up really until the afternoon, so in the morning you definitely have a good opportunity to shoot a low number", said Koepka.

Headlining the field are the world's top golfers Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and many more. Birdies at the sixth and seventh holes took him to 11 under. I did a lot of the same things I did yesterday. Collectively our group was probably the worst putting round I've seen for three professional golfers in a long, long time, but the greens were very tricky, very, very grainy.

Johnson seemed to be powering ahead with four consecutive birdies around the turn - hitting his approach shot on the hard and long par-4 ninth to four feet, and then getting to similar length with a chip on the 10th and his tee shot on the 164-yard par-3 11th.

However, Johnson then showed his class with back-to-back birdies at 11 and 12 before Li bogeyed the next two holes to slip three behind with Lewis vaulting into second when he offset a bogey at the 11th with another birdie at the 12th.

Li put a little late pressure on Johnson with an approach to two feet for birdie at the 15th and the American briefly wobbled as he found the water on the 16th before scrambling for bogey.

Australian Scott Hend carded an impressive seven-under, featuring eight birdies, to sit four shots behind Johnson going into the final round.

Li made another eagle immediately after the turn followed by a series of pars before closing his round with back-to-back eagles on the par-four 17th and par-five 18th to draw level with Johnson.

Belgian Thomas Pieters struck a flawless seven-under-par 63 to carve out a two-shot lead after the opening round of the inaugural Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City on Thursday (Jan 31).

The Saudi International is new to the European Tour and is being held amid scrutiny of Saudi Arabia's human-rights record and condemnation following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

  • Stacy Allen