As if to prove to the doubters that he had put behind him a horror Sunday at the HSBC Champions tournament in China in October, Johnson didn’t just win the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii today. He obliterated the field.
The 2016 US Open winner was asked Saturday evening if thoughts of what happened in Shanghai would be in his mind Sunday and, predictably, he said they wouldn’t.
In that event he was six strokes up with 18 holes to play but a 5-over 77, while Justin Rose shot 67, cost him the title and had many questioning the World’s Number One Player.
Fast forward 71 days and the Dustin Johnson who teed off at the Kapalua Plantation Course Sunday was barely recognisable as the player who collapsed in China two months ago.
He went to the turn 4-under to increase his two-shot overnight lead to six then after his only blemish of the day, a bogey at the par-3 11th after failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker, he put the afterburners on and left the field in his wake.
A spectacular tee shot at the 390-metre par-4 12th caught the speed slot in the fairway and ran all the way to the green to finish just six inches from the hole.
"Plenty of horsepower here."January 8, 2018
The extraordinary drive and resulting eagle put an exclamation point on what had already been a dominant performance and he put the icing on the cake with three more birdies on his way to 24-under for the week and a 17th career PGA Tour title.
In his wake was Spain’s Jon Rahm who fired a final round 69 to finish eight shots behind followed by Johnson’s nearest pursuer as the day began, Brian Harman, a shot further back and solo third.
The victory was Johnson’s second at the winners-only tournament and he said afterwards he had headed to the first tee keen to put the experience of China behind him.
“After China where I didn’t…where I struggled a little bit on Sunday, I didn’t want that to happen again,” Johnson said with a wry smile.
“I knew I was playing well and it’s a golf course that I’m really comfortable on. I’ve really been driving it well and I knew as long as I could keep doing that I knew I was going to play well.
“So even when I made the turn I think I was at 20 under and I told myself my goal was to get it to 25 so I kind of just kept the pedal down and I played really well on the back side too.”
While it was a dominant performance for Johnson it was a mixed week for the two Australians in the field, Marc Leishman likely feeling he let an opportunity slip after leading the event through 36 holes.
The two-time winner in 2017 shot a disastrous 3-over 76 Saturday to fall well off the pace and though he hit back with a superb 6-under round Sunday will rue a lost chance.
At 13-under for the week Leishman finished in a share of seventh place, 11 shots behind Johnson though only three from second placed Rahm.
Cameron Smith will also be rueing a poor passage of play, the Queenslander dropping to 5-over through eight holes on the opening day with a clumsy triple bogey at the par-3 8th.
The newly crowned Australian PGA Champion finished day one 2-over and near the tail of the field but will be pleased to have clawed his way back to a T17 result in the 34-player field.
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