KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia: Graeme McDowell said he was “relieved” after successfully defending his overnight lead on a windy Sunday (Monday in Manila) afternoon to win the Saudi International for his 11th European Tour title but first in nearly five-and-a-half years.

It was the 16th international win for the 40-year-old, who is expected to rise to inside the top 50 of the world rankings from his current 104th place.

“I didn’t realise it had been quite that long here in Europe. I’m very excited. I’m very relieved,” he said.

mcdowell20200204 - McDowell shines in Saudi to end title drought
Graeme McDowell from Northern Ireland plays at the18th hole during the final round of the Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in Red Sea resort of King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia. AP PHOTO

“It’s been 10 years since I won a US Open, 10 years probably since I played the best golf of my life. I feel like I’m moving back in the right direction.

“I have a solid team, life’s settled down. I’ve got a great wife and great family, I’m very happy with what’s going on in my life right now.

“I feel like the pond, the ripples in the pond have kind of steadied out a little bit now and I’m in a good place to play some good golf.”

On Sunday at the Royal Greens Golf Club, the Northern Irishman had slipped to two-over par for his round with three bogeys in 13 holes.

He still had a one-shot lead, but things were looking tenuous for the Northern Irishman.

The 2010 US Open champion then poured in a putt from over 25 feet on the 14th hole for a birdie, and muscled his iron shot on the next from the rough to tap-in distance for a second successive birdie.

After pars on the next two holes, McDowell walked down the 18th with a two-shot lead.

He made a nervy par despite hitting a fantastic tee shot.

However, his even-par 70 took him to 12-under par overall, giving him a two-shot win over defending champion Dustin Johnson.

The American former world number one closed with a three-under par 67 and an eagle on the final hole — his second of the day — to finish solo second at 10-under.

Belgian Thomas Pieters had set the clubhouse marker for a long time after a round of 65 at nine-under par, where he was later joined by Phil Mickelson (67) and Gavin Green (70), who were eventually tied third.

AFP

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