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Johnson makes strong start to bid for 3rd Saudi title

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, SAUDI ARABIA (AP) – Dustin Johnson’s bid for a third victory at the Saudi International began with the American shooting 5-under 65, leaving him three strokes off the lead held by Matteo Manassero midway through the first round yesterday.

Johnson is one of a slew of high-profile players from the United States (US) PGA Tour and European tour on big appearance fees at the opening event of the Asian Tour, and is looking to back up his titles from 2019 and last year. He also finished second in 2020.

The number five-ranked Johnson was 6-under after 11 holes at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club. He bogeyed number 13 and parred his way home to be tied for fourth place.

Manassero, a one-time prodigy in European golf who fell off the main tour and now competes on the second-tier Challenge Tour, covered the front nine in 29 after making six birdies, and picked up more shots at numbers 11 and 12. He was bogey-free in his round
of 62.

Manassero was two shots clear of Sam Horsfield and Adri Arnaus, while Patrick Reed was in a tie for seventh on 4-under and Xander Schauffele (67) in a group a further stroke back.

Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson were among the later starters yesterday.

Dustin Johnson. PHOTO: AFP