Graeme McDowell holds on for 11th European Tour title at Saudi International


Graeme McDowell calls victory 'special' after earning 11th European Tour title at the Saudi International

Graeme McDowell claimed his first European Tour title in over five years with a level-par final round to end the week at Royal Greens G&CC on 12-under, two shots clear of defending champion Dustin Johnson. 

The Northern Irishman, whose last win came at the 2014 Open de France, recovered from a shaky start in difficult conditions as the chasing pack failed to mount any real challenge. 

For McDowell, the win was special, and means he has already achieved the goal he set himself this year of moving back inside the World's top 50. 

"It's special," he said after his win. "I've been working hard the last year and a half. I want to be back up there one more time just to be able to play against these guys.

"The game of golf is in such great shape, there are so many great players in the world, it's so exciting to be a top player in the world and I want to be back up there again.

"My big goal this year was to be back in the Top-50 in the world, back competing in the big tournaments. I'm very excited that it's happened a little faster than I expected but hopefully it's laying some foundations down for having a big year.

"I really feel like I'm moving in the right direction, and it's weeks like this that really give that you which I can eye on effect and hopefully I can use it.

"Kevin (Kirk, coach) said to me, 'There's no reason why the best golf in your career can't still be ahead of you'.I like that. I like that kind of idea. I like that focus."

McDowell, who began the final round with a one stroke lead, gave up that advantage instantly with an opening hole bogey, and was left scrambling for pars at both the fifth and sixth holes. 

He soon recovered at the par-three eighth with a birdie putt from just under 20 feet to get back to level for the day, but went on to drop one at the next after finding the sand, making the turn tied on 11-under with playing partner Victor Dubuisson. 

That was to be the end of the road for Dubuisson though, who dropped five strokes in as many holes from the 10th, with McDowell's final bogey of the day coming at the 13th. 

At that point, it was Phil Mickelson and Thomas Pieters who emerged as the key challengers to McDowell's lead, with Pieters making an eagle at the last to set the clubhouse target on nine-under. 

But McDowell would only build on his lead from there, holing from 20-foot at the 14th to extend his lead back to two shots, and converting a brilliant approach shot in to 15 for his second birdie in a row. 

With the lead at three, McDowell parred his way in for victory, while defending champion Dustin Johnson set up a final-hole eagle to grab solo second on 10-under. 

Pieters and Mickelson shared third spot with Gavin Green, with Dubuisson eventually settling for a share of sixth on -7 with Sergio Garcia, Abraham Ancer, Ross Fisher and Thomas Detry.