February 1, 2019 / 4:46 PM / 9 months ago

Johnson surges to halfway lead in Saudi International

(Reuters) - World number three Dustin Johnson shot a stunning nine-under-par 61 to take a three-shot lead at the halfway stage of the Saudi International in King Abdullah Economic City on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Jan 5, 2019; Maui, HI, USA; PGA golfer Dustin Johnson tees off on the first hole during the third round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions golf tournament at Kapalua Resort - The Plantation Course. Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

The American, who was in tied 31st place after Thursday’s action, produced a spotless round that included seven birdies and an eagle to go 11-under for the tournament at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club.

“It was really good. Obviously you always have fun when you’re playing well, but I did a lot of the same things I did yesterday,” Johnson said.

“The greens rolled a little bit better today. I felt like I paid a lot more attention to exactly what the putts were going to do and just tried to make sure I just trusted the line that I was playing and made some putts today.”

China’s Li Haotong carded a 65 to share second place with South Africa’s Zander Lombard who signed off with 67.

Starting on the back nine, Johnson sank four birdies but his best form came after the turn when he rattled in a 30-foot eagle putt on the par five fourth hole.

“I like the course... I’m driving it really well right now, so if I keep hitting it in the fairway, I’m going to really like this course,” he added.

Overnight leader Thomas Pieters slipped to 18th after a poor round of 74 that included seven bogeys, while world number one Justin Rose missed the cut after a round of 72.

Dubai Desert Classic winner Bryson DeChambeau was tied for 12th alongside five others.

Reigning U.S. Masters champion Patrick Reed, who was presented with honorary life membership of the European Tour on Friday, was tied 33rd after carding 71 to make the cut.

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Chopra

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