Dustin Johnson storms his way to Northern Trust win in FedEx Cup Playoffs opener
Only Mother Nature stopped Dustin Johnson.
En route to polishing off a thunderous masterpiece in the Northern Trust on Sunday at TPC Boston, Johnson had to head for shelter instead of the winner’s circle just after hitting his tee shot on the 71st hole as storm cells moved over Norton, Massachusetts.
The carefree Johnson, however, wasn’t shaken.
Until then, he was the only feared force on the grounds. And once the foul stuff cleared after an hour’s worth of delay, Johnson needed just seven more shots to beat darkness and complete his thrashing of the best players in the world.
With an 8-under-par 63, Johnson put the bow on a staggering display of power, precision and touch as he sent all others fleeing with rounds of 67-60-64-63 to end at 30-under 254 to win by 11 shots, the largest margin of victory this season.
Armed with a five-shot lead after 54 holes, Johnson slammed the pedal to the floor with an eagle from short distance on the second and four birdies in a five-hole stretch starting at the fourth. With a birdie on the 12th, he upped his lead to nine and then coasted home. His birdie on the final hole gave him 23 in all, to go along with five eagles – the most he’s ever made in a tournament – against just three bogeys.
He hit all 18 greens in regulation on the final day and won for the second time this season and for the 22nd time in his career.
“Obviously, this was a really good week,” the understated Johnson said. “I missed quite a few short putts, but other than that, I did everything pretty well. My ball-striking was really unbelievable. I found something on Wednesday. I played some really good golf, and it was a lot of fun.
“So I’m looking forward to the rest of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.”
Well, he should. He took over the top spot in the standings and will continue his pursuit of his first FedEx Cup title – and the $15 million bonus – at next week’s BMW Championship at Olympia Fields south of Chicago.
“It’s something I haven’t won,” Johnson said. “It’s something I’ve been close to winning a few times, and it’s just something that I would really like to have on my résumé when I’m done playing golf. You know, it’s a big title. It means a lot to all the guys out here. It definitely means a lot to me, and it’s something that I really want to be a FedEx Cup champion.”
Harris English won the race to finish second, his 69 leaving him at 19 under.
Daniel Berger birdied the final hole to sign for a 67 and finish in solo third, 12 shots behind. Kevin Kisner and Scottie Scheffler, who became the 11th player to shoot 59 on Friday, tied for fourth, 13 strokes back.
“Dustin played unbelievable golf,” English said. “It was solid ball-striking, putting, everything. Shooting 30 under on a playoff golf course like this is pretty incredible, and well deserved.”
Johnson was combustible from the get-go with a first-round 67. Then he brought the lightning in the second round with a preposterous stretch of seven birdies and two eagles in his first 11 holes en route to a career-low 60 to grab the lead. Pars on his final seven holes kept him from breaking into the 50s that day.
He kept the electric bursts rolling with a 64 in the third round that included a birdie-eagle finish that left him atop the leaderboard at 22-under 191, his lowest 54-hole score by three shots.
His final-round 63 left him just one shot short of tying Justin Thomas’ 72-hole record 253 total set in the 2017 Sony Open in Hawaii. Johnson also fell one shot short of tying Ernie Els’ 72-hole record in relation to par of 31 under sent in the 2003 Sentry Tournament of Champions.
“This is like as good as it gets,” said Webb Simpson, who tied for sixth – 14 shots behind. “The course might be easier than normal but a 59 is a 59 and 60 is a 60 and 30 under is 30 under.”
With the win, Johnson returned to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time since May 2019. And it was his third win in the Northern Trust, each three on a different course.
The bizarre final day was par for the course of late for Johnson, for his season has been anything but tranquil since the PGA Tour returned after a 13-week break due to COVID-19.
He missed the cut in the first event of the return, the Charles Schwab Challenge, then tied for 17th in the RBC Heritage before winning the Travelers Championship, where he shot a 61 in the third round that was his career best for about two months.
But after a two-week break, he was put through the ringer as he shot 80-80 to miss the cut at the Memorial, then shot 78 a week later in the first round of the 3M Open before withdrawing with a back injury.
A week later, however, he finished tied for 12th at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, then nearly won the PGA Championship the following week, where despite going 65-68 on the weekend, he tied for second behind Collin Morikawa. But in doing so, Johnson became the first player to go 0-for-4 in majors with the 54-hole lead.
And now, after a one-week break, he’ll add his TPC Boston rout to the resume and count 12 consecutive rounds in the 60s.
Tiger Woods shot his best round of the week, a 66, but didn’t do much the first three rounds and tied for 58th. That left him at 57th in the projected playoffs standings and he’ll need a top-5 finish next week in the BMW Championship to be one of the 30 players moving on to The Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta, the playoffs finale. With the U.S. Open two weeks after the playoffs end, Woods could play four tournaments in five weeks.
“I hit a lot of good shots. My body feels pretty good,” Woods said. “This is going to be a long haul either way. I wish I would have played a little bit better this week to make it a little bit easier on me next week to try to get into East Lake, but this is going to be a busy stretch either way.”