Liam Johnston records best European Tour finish in Saudi International

Liam Johnston on his way to finishing joint-30th in the inaugural Saud International at Royal Greens. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Liam Johnston on his way to finishing joint-30th in the inaugural Saud International at Royal Greens. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
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A disappointing final two holes left Liam Johnston feeling a tad sore but his best European Tour effort to date in the inaugural Saudi International helped ease the pain.

The 26-year-old from Dumfries had a top-20 finish in his sights after back-to-back birdies at the 14th and 15th in the final round at Royal Greens moved him to six-under for the tournament.

Bob MacIntyre chips at the 18th in the final round at the event in King Abdullah Economic City. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Bob MacIntyre chips at the 18th in the final round at the event in King Abdullah Economic City. Picture: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

But a bogey at the 17th with a wedge in his hands followed by a three-putt par at the last left him having to settle for a tie for 30th as he closed with a 69 for a 275 total.

The effort, which earned him around £22,500, came in Johnston’s sixth start as a card holder on the European Tour and beat his joint-47th finish on his debut as a professional in the 2017 Dunhill Links Championship.

“It’s been a good week,” said Johnston, who played with Bryson DeChambeau on Saturday before being in the same group as Victor Dubuisson on the final day.

“It’s my best finish of the season so far and my game is definitely trending in the right direction. This week has made me believe I belong out here. I just need to work on the right things.”

Over four rounds, the former Scottish Stroke Play champion carded 17 birdies - only five less than the winner, world No 3 Dustin Johnson.

“It was still a bit ropey on the range and at the start, but I figured out what was going on the last few holes and started to hit it a lot better,” added Johnson.

“I had a 52 degree wedge in my hand at the 17th and made a stupid bogey and then three-putted last for a par, which is a bit sore.

“But my scoring clubs are trending in right direction. They are not where I want them to be, but that’s what has probably pleased me the most. I was also pretty good mentally right until the end.”

Next up is a double-header in Australia - the Vic Open then the Perth Super 6 event, both sponsored by ISPS Hansa.

I’m ready to crack on the next two weeks,” declared Johnston. “I’ve never been to Australia and, though I’m not looking forward to the trip, it will be great when I get down there.”

MacIntyre is also making the long journey feeling buoyant after he came home in four-under 31 to sign off with a 68, finishing joint-44th on two-under.

“My back was against the wall early on after making a couple of bogeys, but I never give up out on a golf course,” said the 22-year-old left-hander from Oban after an effort that earned him just under £14,000.

“You have to dig in because, you never know, it might be a Euro at the end of the year that is the difference between keeping your card and losing it. You’ve got to keep going. That’s what I did today and it paid off late on with a couple of birdies.”

The former Scottish Amateur champion had already made a 2 at the 11th before coming close to his first hole-in-one as a European Tour player.

“My tee shot with a cutty 6-iron at the 16th was tracking all the way,” he said. “It just came up a foot short.

“I was disappointed to finish with a par at the last with a 5-iron in my hand, finding the water with it, but that’s what happens when you get aggressive sometimes - it can bite you on the bum.

“But I’m happy overall with how I played. I started striking it good after five holes, finding my rhythm, and continued from there.”

MacIntyre sits 54th in the Race to Dubai at the end of the Desert Swing and added: “It has been good. I’m a bit disappointed with my results in the two events I played, but that’s five out of six cuts since getting on the Tour.

“It’s a good habit to get into. It’s not nice to be finishing down the leaderboard, but my game is there. We can see it and the stats show it. It just needs a few things tweaked here and there and I am sure we will get in the mix.

“I’m looking forward to the events in Australia. I found a little thing in my putting today, which was speeding up the process a bit rather than being over it too long. It started to work late on.”