Wednesday 17 July 2019

Dunne enjoys weekend boost as Johnson seizes control in Jeddah

Dustin Johnson has been confirmed for the JP McManus Pro-AM
Dustin Johnson has been confirmed for the JP McManus Pro-AM

Brian Keogh

Paul Dunne made his first cut this year as Dustin Johnson blasted a career-low 61 and Brooks Koepka called in security to keep alive his hopes of returning to world No 1 with a win.

As world No 1 Justin Rose missed the cut by two shots in the inaugural Saudi International, three-time Major winner Koepka brought back memories of Tiger Woods in Phoenix 20 years ago.

While Woods had an enormous gallery on hand to help move a boulder out of the way during that 1999 Waste Management Phoenix Open, Koepka was fortunate he had security men and marshals following his marquee three-ball with Rose and Henrik Stenson when he pulled his drive into the desert on the 15th at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club near Jeddah.

"It was lodged in there pretty good, pretty much right against the rock, and the security guys, I figured I'd call them," said Koepka, who made bogey but still shot 70 to go into the weekend ten strokes behind Johnson in a sparsely attended event that's drawn much criticism. "They're a little bigger than me, so they could help move it, and there were about five or six people that helped move it, thankfully.

"It helps sometimes to be in the bigger groups. There more people that are there, the more chance you can get it done. But yeah, thankful for those guys."

Johnson made an eagle and seven birdies in an effortless-looking 61 to lead by three shots on 11-under from South African Zander Lombard and China's Li Haotong.

But it was also a positive day for Dunne, who comfortably missed the cut in his first two starts this year in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The 2017 British Masters winner was pleased to follow his opening 68 with a 69 to lie joint 18th, on three-under-par.

"First weekend tee time of the year!" he tweeted ahead of his third round tee-time with big-hitter Thomas Pieters, who following his pacesetting, opening 63 with a 74. The Wicklow man birdied two of his first three holes at the exposed desert course on the shores of the Red Sea to move swiftly up the leaderboard.

But he then bogeyed the 16th, his seventh, and double-bogeyed the par-three third to lie just a shot inside the eventual cut mark with six holes to play.

Birdies at the par-five fourth and the 381-yard seventh saw him finish the day tied for 18th on three-under, just a shot behind Bryson DeChambeau.

With that job done, he will be looking to get some confidence going before heads to Melbourne next week for LPGA Tour co-sanctioned, $3 million ISPS Handa Vic Open. He'll be joined there by Portmarnock amateur Conor Purcell, pal Gavin Moynihan as well as Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow, who will play for equal prize-money in the concurrent women's tournament.

"A player of Paul's like is the kind of guy, no more than myself, who can get caught up in his swing at times and get lost in something for 6-8 weeks but then find it for 6-8 weeks and be comfortable," Pádraig Harrington said of Dunne this week. "And when he's comfortable, he goes and wins. He just needs to stay patient and wait for those periods."

Leader Johnson looked more than comfortable as he took advantage of the benign morning conditions. "I'm driving it really well right now, so if I keep hitting it in the fairway, I'm going to really like this golf course," said Johnson, who confessed that a birdie-birdie finish for a 59 never crossed his mind.

Woods is not marking the 20th anniversary of his storied boulder-move in the PGA Tour's Waste Management Phoenix Open where South African Branden Grace (30) had two eagles, including a hole-in-one at the seventh, in a seven-under 64 to set the early halfway target at 11-under par.

He led by two strokes from Bubba Watson, who shot 67 and Scotland's Martin Laird, who posted a 68. Seamus Power, who opened with a level-par 70 in his bid to avoid a seventh successive weekend off, was an afternoon starter.

Saudi International

Live, Sky Sports, 9.30am

Waste Management Phoenix Open

Live, Sky Sports Golf, 6.0pm

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