Dustin Johnson Q&A: On the Saudi International, playing golf in the Middle East and expectations for 2019

The world No 3 is part of a strong line up for the event at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City that starts on Thursday

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 19:  Dustin Johnson of the United States lines up a putt on the eighth green during Day Four of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship at Abu Dhabi Golf Club on January 19, 2019 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
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Dustin Johnson is part of a strong field for the inaugural Saudi International tournament that starts on Thursday.

The American will  take on the course at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City as he continues his start to the 2019 season.

The world No 3 is joined by Justin Rose (No 1), Brooks Koepka (No 2) and Omega Dubai Desert Classic victor Bryson DeChambeau (No 5) as four of the world's top five lead the line-up for the European Tour event.

Johnson, the 2016 US Open winner, finished in a tie for 16th place at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA earlier in January, and he is looking to continue his build-up to challenging for more major wins in Saudi Arabia.

Thoughts on his 2018 campaign

"I feel like I had a good year. I would like to have had a little better performance in the majors, but other than that I feel like my year was good. I had a lot of chances to win. I won three times and had a lot of top-10s. So it was a solid year. I just didn't contend in the majors like I wanted to. I had a lot of good chances to win that I didn't capitalise on, but it's still a pretty good year. If I could win three times for the rest of my career I'll be happy."

On using Middle East tournaments as part of his early season schedule in recent years

"Since I first came to the Middle East a couple of years ago I’ve really enjoyed it and I’ve always played well out here. We are looked after very well and the golf courses are fantastic. It fits very nicely with my schedule so for the past few seasons it has made sense to come out here early in the year. It’s a nice start."

On being part of the line-up for the inaugural Saudi International

"The golf course looks great and from speaking to the other guys it sounds like a very interesting place to come and play a golf tournament. The field is set to be very strong, so any chance to play against the best players in the world is tough to turn down. I already knew I was playing Abu Dhabi again so logistically it worked well being a couple of weeks later."

On what the launch of an European Tour event in Saudi Arabia means for the game globally

"It’s so good to see golf spreading to new areas in the world – it’s what it’s all about. One of the great things about being a golfer is inspiring others to play and take up golf, so if we’re doing that in different countries then it’s a real positive. Golf has become huge in the Middle East over the last 25 years or so, so it’s cool to see it continuing to grow to other countries in the region."

On who he expects to be challenging at the top of the game in 2019

"The competition is so fierce, there are so many guys pushing for the big titles and in the world rankings. The obvious ones are the players up in the top ten currently, and it’s pretty close between me, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas at the moment. You also have players who can get on a hot streak and are suddenly pushing into the top five, such as Xander Schauffele after his win in Hawaii.

On his current form and the state of his game

"My golf swing feels great and I’ve got a lot of confidence in it. I’m driving the ball well, and I’ve been working on the short game, hitting a lot of wedges. I’m happy with where I’m at and really looking forward to the season ahead."