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SAUDI INTERNATIONAL POWERED BY SBIA


February 3, 2019


Dustin Johnson


King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia

TOM BENBOW: Delighted to be joined by The 2019 Saudi International powered by SBIA, Dustin Johnson. Welcome.

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Thank you.

TOM BENBOW: Congratulations Dustin, it wasn’t easy out there and after nine holes you were tied with Haotong Li, what were you thinking going in to the back nine?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, it was tight, but I made a nice birdie on 11 and 12, so you know, kind of got the lead back, but yeah, it was definitely tight, and then I made it a lot closer at the end than it should have been, hitting it in the water on 16.

But you know, followed it up with two really nice birdies on 17 and 18.

TOM BENBOW: So it's your first European Tour victory, takes you up to 20 worldwide wins. Tell me how that feels.

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Oh, it feels really good. Any time you can win a professional golf tournament, no matter where it is in the world, it's a big win. I'm honoured to be the champion, and I'm very pleased with the win.

You know, I'm heading back to the States tonight, and you know, I've got three big weeks in a row. I've got Pebble, L.A. and MĂ©xico coming up. You know, to win here, obviously the game is in good form, and I'm heading into three really big weeks for me.

So you know, to have a lot of confidence going into those three weeks is a good thing, and you know, it's three places that I've had a lot of success at and so I'm hoping to continue that going into next week and on for the rest of this year.

TOM BENBOW: We spoke earlier in the week about this streak you've on. This is now another year you've won a tournament. You're up to 12 years winning a tournament at least once a year. How does this victory set you up for the rest of your season?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, the things that I've been working on are working, and I've still got a lot of room for improvement. I'm very pleased with where the game is at. I've got a lot of confidence in what I'm doing and I feel like I'm hitting a lot of really good golf shots. So misses are starting to get better, and I'm not making as many mistakes, even though I did on 16, I made one today that wasn't very good.

But for the most part, that was really about the only really bad shot I hit this week.

So you know, I'm pleased with where the game's at, and you know, to get a win here, it's a big win, and gives me a lot of confidence going for the rest of the year.

Q. The save for bogey at 16, can you just talk about how important that was and how satisfying doing something like that is?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, I just hit a really good shot on 15 and hit a good putt and lipped it out. It kind of went -- I was playing kind of left edge. Thought it was going right and it never moved.

You know, then on 16, I had -- it was a good number to hit for the shot I was hitting. I kind of -- I just pulled it a little bit. It wasn't off by much. It was just barely left. Just pulled it a little bit, but then yeah, to stand up there and I've got to hit pretty much the same shot again, you know, and to hit it in there close and make the putt was definitely the momentum kind of changer for me that I needed after hitting it in the water there. I needed to make that putt just to stay ahead by one, but I knew I still needed to birdie 17 and 18 if I wanted to win.

Q. At the turn, you're one back after the birdie at 9. What were you thinking about the back nine? Were you thinking that you were one back? It's been a while since you were actually behind?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, obviously it turned a 5 into a 3 there. Yeah, he was one ahead, but there was still nine holes of golf left. I knew I was playing well enough to make up some strokes, and you know, but I didn't let it bother me. I just played my game and kept on trying to make birdies. Just gave myself looks at birdies and try to somehow figure out which way it was going to break.

I felt like I played a pretty good back nine other than, you know, missing a really short putt there on 10 but I didn't hit a bad putt. I just misread it a little bit. You know, so it was a little closer than I would like, but all in all, I still came out winning.

Q. What club did you have into 16? What was the distance, and were you surprised that it actually found the water, and was there no way you could drop somewhere else than where you did?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: It was, I think we had 199-hole. It was helping out of the left. I mean, it's 7-iron. I was trying to take a little bit off because I felt like it was playing really short, because Haotong, he hit a nice shot in there but he didn't even hit it that solid and it got all the way back past the hole.

My ball, I probably could have dropped up by the green, but it was just so close that I didn't even want -- I couldn't tell. It probably crossed up there, you know, looking at it, maybe, but it was just so high in the air, it was just hard to tell. I felt like I was, you know -- and it was curving the other way. It was curving right-to-left. I think I couldn't have dropped up there just from the direction it was traveling.

I dropped back there. I dropped where I left myself a perfect number to hit just a stock wedge and hit a nice shot and made a nice putt.

Q. What was the number?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: 154, and with the help, yeah, it was just a perfect stock wedge. I hit a really nice shot in there.

Q. Were you thinking any time about the four eagles yesterday?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Any time you have four eagles in a golf tournament -- but four in one round is really good. Obviously you hole a couple pitches and some nice putts, but yeah, that helps the scorecard a lot.

Q. With Sergio's DQ yesterday, have you ever seen anybody get a DQ for damaging the green and what did you see yesterday?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: You should probably just talk to Sergio about that.

Q. I know all wins are special, but how special is this one, considering you were the poster boy of this tournament and you were the first person, first player who was contracted when this tournament was conceptualised and you were the one who was always being talked about from 1 1/2 years ago. How does that feel -- so much faith, that kind of confidence, and you go ahead and win?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, it's great to come here for the first, kind of the inaugural event, to come here and be the champion. I'm very honoured to be the champion.

You know, I've got some really good friends who are very involved with this golf tournament and kind of made it happen. When they were talking about with me a year -- a little over a year ago in Abu Dhabi, I told him I would come play, and I'm here and I'm definitely -- you know, it's a big win for me and I'm very, very honoured to be the champion.

Q. How would you describe your first time here and if we have a future tournament, would you be able to come here with your family? And what's your opinion of the golf club?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, it's been a great week for me coming here, first time coming to Saudi Arabia, first time playing golf here, kind of first for everything.

Absolutely I would come back. I think the event went off fantastically, and you know, the golf course, I enjoyed the golf course. Obviously I played it very well. It's a beautiful course and I really like it. I really enjoyed my week this week, and I hope to be back next year.

Q. Did you visit any place except this golf area in Saudi Arabia? What do you think about Saudi Arabia in general?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, we really didn't have much time. Yeah, so pretty much all I've seen is just this area, but it's beautiful, it's nice and I've enjoyed my time here. The people have been very friendly and I've enjoyed it.

Q. You talked earlier in this week about this event coming before you going to Pebble Beach next week and L.A. and MĂ©xico. How much confidence is this going to give you going into those events, and obviously The Open and Pebble Beach later in the year?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, any time you win a golf tournament, it gives you confidence going into the next week. Definitely I'm really thrilled going into Pebble with a lot of confidence. I've still got some things I need to work on in my game, but I'm very pleased with where it's at and I've got three very big golf tournaments coming up and yeah, so hopefully, I can continue this good play into the next three weeks.

Q. Going back to Pebble Beach and the U.S. Open, are you a man on a mission given what happened there the last time?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, I really like the golf course. I think I play it very well. I know it very well. So yeah, I would definitely like to give it another go this year and hopefully if I'm in that situation again, I can perform a little better.

Q. Last week it was Bryson in Dubai and this week it's you in Saudi. Will we see more Americans with international wins?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, I think you start to see a lot more Americans playing over on The European Tour. You know, especially this time of year, and then probably later in the year. It's really hard after these kind of few weeks until our season's over just because we have -- I mean, there's just so many -- big tournament after big tournament right in a row.

You'll definitely see a lot of American players starting to play over here early in the year and late in the year.

Q. Does this really mean more Americans will come out to play to get ready for the maybe season?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I don't know. Hopefully I'll be back next year, so I'll do it. But as far as the rest of the guys, I can't really speak for them.

Q. So what are your plans for The European Tour this year? What other events do you plan to play?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: The Open Championship. (Laughter).

Q. Is it extraordinarily inspiring to come somewhere very different and play?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Sorry, I couldn't quite hear you.

Q. Is it inspirational when you come somewhere different? You've been on the American tour -- do you need a sort of fillip by coming somewhere a little out of the ordinary to get going?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: No, not really. I made a commitment to come here a long time ago, so for me, and I was playing Abu Dhabi, it was pretty easy for me to come over here. I don't play any of the events on the U.S. tour right now, so this fit in my schedule.

I was very happy to come over and play, and hopefully I'll be back next year defending the title.

Q. Were there any key things that you thought happened today that really changed the outcome of the event for you, except for the putt on 16, which I guess was very key.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: The birdie on 11, I hit it in there close and Haotong, he hit it in there close and hit a decent putt and just missed. That was kind of maybe the turning point right there for me. Obviously the putt on 16 was huge, but made a great up-and-down on 17 and then had a pretty easy birdie there on 18.

Q. Before you mentioned the putt on 15, and talk about the shot at 16, where you just missed the putt at 15, did that miss annoy you when you were on the way to 16?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: No. I mean, I was frustrated on 15 but when I was on the tee on 16, I was just thinking about that shot. I just tried to take too much off it and pulled it.

TOM BENBOW: Thanks very much for joining us and congratulations again.

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