Dustin Johnson and Haotong Li will go head to head in a final round showdown at the Saudi International powered by SBIA, after an eagle surge by Li saw the two-time European Tour winner join the American at the top of the leaderboard late on day three.
Playing in Saturday’s penultimate pairing ahead of Johnson, China’s Li threw down the gauntlet early with a chip-in for eagle on the first hole at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC). A double bogey on the par four sixth hole threatened to derail Li’s momentum, but he immediately recovered with a birdie on the par four seventh and another majestic chip-in for eagle on hole 10.
A dream finish of consecutive eagles on the 17th and 18th – a par five – sent Li level with Johnson and also made him the first player to post a quartet of eagles in a European Tour round since Mark Pilkington at the 2007 Singapore Masters.
“I think I was very, very lucky today,” said Li of his 62. “The last couple of shots were really solid, but except that, honestly, my play wasn’t good. I want to play my best tomorrow and enjoy myself in the final round.”
Johnson had led the first-ever European Tour event held in Saudi Arabia throughout the third round following another assured display of power and finesse. The world number three made a solid par save on the last after finding water off the tee.
“If I want to get it done tomorrow, I’m going to have to play really good golf,” said Johnson. “Haotong is a good player and he’s been playing well. Four eagles in a golf tournament is pretty good, but four in one round, I’d take that any day. I’ll just go out, play my game and not worry about what he’s doing. I’m looking forward to it.”
The leaders’ nearest contender is Englishman Tom Lewis, who is five shots back on 11 under after an impressive bogey-free 62. New Zealand’s Ryan Fox and Frenchman Alex Levy are two shots further behind on nine under.