Johnson wins PGA opener in Hawaii
KAPALUA, Hawaii — Dustin Johnson ended a windy week with a wild ride Tuesday that carried him to the first win of the PGA Tour season.
Despite hitting two drives into native areas that cost him three shots, Johnson never lost the lead at Kapalua. He closed with a 5-under-par 68 for a four-shot victory in the Tournament of Champions, though it was up for grabs with five holes remaining.
Steve Stricker came within a fraction of an inch of tying for the lead until his birdie putt peeled away from the cup on the 13th hole, which Johnson chopped up for a double bogey. With only a one-shot lead, Johnson pitched in from 50 feet in front of the 14th green to restore his three-shot lead, and Stricker never challenged him after that.
And so, the tournament that didn't start until the fourth day because of a powerful wind finally ended with a guy who overpowered the Plantation Course.
Johnson, who finished at 16-under 203, won for the sixth straight season. Only Phil Mickelson, with nine straight years, has a longer active streak of most consecutive seasons with a PGA Tour victory.
“He's very athletic, and he's just going to continue to get better,” Stricker said. “It's fun to watch. You never know what he's going to do, and he's got a lot of talent.”
Johnson also added a peculiar footnote to his record. He now has won the last three PGA Tour events reduced to 54 holes because of weather — rain at Pebble Beach in 2009, a hurricane at The Barclays in 2011 and gusts that topped 40 mph in Hawaii from a freak weather pattern that led to a bizarre season opener.
Johnson moved to No. 12 in the world ranking.
The tournament ended just more than 29 hours after it started. Then again, 54 holes were all that was needed to show who was playing the best golf.
“It gives me a lot of confidence going into this year,” Johnson said.
Not since Tiger Woods has a player gone from college to winning in his first six seasons on tour.
Stricker put up a good fight on one good leg. He has been feeling a shooting pain down his left side on every shot and limped his way around the most mountainous course on tour for 54 holes in two days. He closed with a 69.
“I knew it was going to be tough, but I gave it run for a little while,” Stricker said.
Brandt Snedeker went 5-under during a four-hole stretch on the front nine to get within one shot of the lead until he closed out the front nine with three straight bogeys. Snedeker had a 69 and finished alone in third, six shots behind. He moved to No. 8 in the world ranking, second only to Woods among Americans.
Masters champion Bubba Watson (71) and former PGA champion Keegan Bradley (70) were another shot back.
Johnson overcame the first threat from Snedeker with back-to-back birdies, and just like that, he was ahead by five and looked unbeatable.
How good can Johnson be?
“I still don't think I've lived up to my potential,” Johnson said. “I played really well but still made some mistakes. But you're always going to make some mistakes. Just limiting those will definitely help, and then, for me, just making some better decisions.
“If I keep playing golf like I'm playing right now, then obviously there is no limit.”