Johnson’s TaylorMade M6 route to top in Saudi International

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Dustin Johnson shot to the top of the leaderboard in the Saudi International with a superb 61 at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. Picture by GETTY IMAGES

DUSTIN Johnson demonstrated his class with a stunning nine-under par 61 to lead the inaugural Saudi International by three shots at the halfway stage.

The American took full advantage of the benign morning conditions at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club to move to 11-under for the tournament, ahead of China’s Haotong Li (65) and South Africa’s Zander Lombard (67) who share second place on eight-under.

Johnson signalled his intent by beginning his round with consecutive birdies after starting on the 10th tee.

And he added a further five birdies along with an eagle on the par five fourth hole, where he sank a 30-footer from the fringe.

The World No. 3 was in imposing form as he put daylight between himself and the rest of the world-class field, which includes last week’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic winner Bryson DeChambeau.

Johnson, who will be keen to add to his one Major at the 2016 US Open this season, said: “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.

“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.

“I drove it really well and gave myself a lot of opportunities.

“I like the golf course. If I keep driving it like the way I am right now – I switched to the M6 driver this week – and I really like it.

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

DeChambeau goes into the weekend seven shots back on four-under after his second consecutive round of 68.

Reigning Masters Champion Patrick Reed, who was presented with Honorary Life Membership of the European Tour after his round, rallied on the back with three birdies in his final five holes to ensure he will also be in action at the weekend.

But the start of the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine will have to make up nine shots on his teammate Johnson.

Hampshire-raised World No. 1 Justin Rose will be absent for the final two rounds though following a round of 72, which left him on two over par, two shots adrift of the cut.

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