A golf tournament can turn quickly, as the final round of the Saudi Invitational proved once more.

After a bogey on the 13th hole at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club overnight, Graeme McDowell clung to a one-stroke lead, sitting two-over for the day, 10-under for the tournament and looking plenty worse for wear. Thomas Pieters was already done with his closing 65 and sitting at nine-under, and Phil Mickelson was also at nine-under, charging with three birdies early in the final round. Meanwhile, defending champion Dustin Johnson lurked two behind.

Twenty minutes later, McDowell was breathing easy, holding now a decisive three-stroke lead after back-to-back birdies from 30 and six feet on the 14th and 15th holes. A bogey from Mickelson on the par-3 16th and a birdie on the 18th would have him finish tied for third, and an eagle from Johnson on the par-5 18th let him jump past Pieters and Mickelson into second alone.

With three final pars, McDowell finished with an even-par 70 for the day, a 12-under 278 for the week and the satisfaction that he’s still got what it takes to win on the European Tour.


“It’s special,” said the 40-year-old from Northern Ireland, who grabbed his 11th career European Tour title, but his first since the 2015 French Open. “I’ve been working hard the past year-and-a-half. I’ve said I want to be back up there one more time. I’ve got young kids at home and I want them to see me out there. I want them to see Dad is tough and Dad can do it and not have to pull up a YouTube video… I’m really relieved to get the job done.”

With the victory, McDowell is expected to jump back into the top-50 in the Official World Golf Ranking, after starting the week ranked 104th. “I’m excited,” he said. “It’s a big goal this year to be back in the top-50. Came a little quicker than expected.”

Another golfer trying to return to the world top-50 is Mickelson, who ranked 86th entering the week and figured to draw some inspiration from his play in Saudi Arabia, where he posted three rounds of 68 or better. His T-3 finish was his best in any tournament since his victory a year ago at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, where he was flying to from the Middle East to defend his title. It was also his first top-20 finish in any tournament since last year’s Masters.

Phil Mickelson
Mickelson’s T-3 finish was his best in any tournament since winning the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am a year ago. [Photo: Ross Kinnaird]

“It was so fun to be back in the mix,” Mickelson said. “It’s been a while since I have been back in contention. It’s been a while since I’ve been playing well, and this was a great week for me. A good step. And it was so fun coming down the stretch to feel the nervousness and the excitement and the opportunities.”