Johnson Goes The (Full) Distance

Johnson Wins At Pebble Beach (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Johnson Wins At Pebble Beach (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

In 2009 Dustin Johnson won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in a rain-shortened 54 holes but he proved today that he could win the event over the full duration.

The 25-year old captured his third PGA Tour victory by with a slim one-stroke margin thanks to a timely birdie on the final hole, the famous par-five closer at Pebble Beach Golf Links. It took him 74 strokes of varying quality to finish up the tournament on Sunday but nothing mattered more than avoiding that 75th stroke for Dustin Johnson.

With J.B. Holmes, and most notably, David Duval, all finished up ahead of him at -15, Johnson required a birdie or better on the 543-yard final stanza. Facing soft turf conditions and a wind blowing almost straight into him he still managed to drive the ball past the signature fairway tree, leaving him just 235 yard to the hole on the par 5. From there he struck a bombed 3-iron into the front bunker where an exquisite extraction left him the 42-inch birdie putt he would convert for the win.

With his 270 total (64,68,64,74) Johnson (photo – Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) earned $1,116,000. The Myrtle Beach, South Carolina native also leaped to the lead in the FedEx Cup standings.

Having started the day tied for the lead with Paul Goydos at an impressive 18 under par, many suspected that the pair would be closely bunched in the final holes today but the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links had something to say about that. Their four stroke lead over the field evaporated quickly. Course conditions were tough and the small, undulating greens that require precise approach shots did not see very many on Sunday. Within the top ten finishers just three broke 70 in the final round.

It appeared early on that the plodding style of 18-year tour veteran Goydos might be the winning formula through the first half of the round. Despite being out driven by up to 50 yards or more ,in typical fashion Goydos found fairway after fairway on the front nine and stayed relatively mistake free. After Johnson made a sloppy double bogey on the difficult ninth hole Goydos was one clear of the field.

Then the back nine arrived.

Goydos looked anything but a veteran as he started the back nine at Pebble Beach. Bogeys on the 11th and 12th holes with a follow up birdie on 13 were simply a prelude to something that could only be described as a disaster.

Goydos and Johnson could be overhead discussing the strategy of playing the 573-yard, 14th hole, as they waited for Bryce Molder to make a quadruple bogey nine on the hole ahead of them. Goydos talked of the possibility to make a “big number” and he fulfilled that prophecy as he slapped the ball around the green on the way to a nine of his own. It lead to his back nine 42, a 78 total, and his removal from the possible win scenario.

In the meantime Johnson did not let the glitch on #9 affect him and took advantage of his power (he ranked #1 in driving distance for the week) to manage his way around the golf course. He did stumble on 12 and 17 with bogeys, eventually putting him in the tie for the lead as he stood on the 18th.

“During the rounds today I never felt like I was making any mistakes, but, you know, just nothing seemed to be going my way,” explained Johnson after the win. “Hitting two good shots on 18, I pushed my second shot a little bit, but it was in the front right bunker, which me and my caddie talked about, and it wasn’t gonna be a bad spot to be. Got up-and-down to get the victory. Can’t beat that.”

Even after making the mistake on #17 Johnson said he still had resolve on the final hole as he knew what he had to do to finish with a win. “You know, all you can ask for is a chance to win it on the last hole. I was in position. Obviously I wasn’t playing the way I wanted to play today, but I was still right there. So, you know, nothing I had done all day mattered until — the only thing that mattered was that hole.”

Johnson said that even though he went the full distance for this year’s victory he does not rank it as better than last years. “Even though it was shortened last year, it’s still a win and I still played great.”

While many fans were rooting on Johnson to take the back-to-back victories and join an elite group that have done so at Pebble Beach, there were plenty of golf fans following the David Duval story.

Duval, the former #1 player in the world was on the radar throughout the back nine today with his only blemish on the inward holes being a bogey on #14. A timely birdie on #17 gave him a great opportunity to push to the very top of the leader board on the last but a par left him waiting on the green for the possibility of extra hole. J.B. Holmes also made a par on 18 to put him in the same position. Johnson’s final stroke eclipsed all that.

Even so, Duval was content with his play. “I’m just pleased to get out of my golf game over the course of four days again what I feel like I should be getting out of it. I feel very comfortable and very confident in what I’m doing. And, you know, also, in a kind of strange way, it makes me proud. I feel like I kind of have given the folks who have given me starts this year good firepower for why they did it. That makes me feel good, too.”

Duval can take that great feeling to Mexico this coming week where he will play in MayaKoba Classic, the opposite field event to the Accenture Match Play.

With the February visit to Pebble Beach in the books some players can now look forward to seeing the golf course again this summer at the United States Open Championship. Dustin Johnson will be looking ahead to that major with great interest but he knows what he will face in June will be a different test than the one he has conquered in consecutive years. “It’s gonna play different. Hopefully it’ll be firm and fast. The rough’s gonna be three times as long as it is right now knowing the USGA. So it’s gonna play very difficult…”

Notes:

-Dustin Johnson, a TaylorMade staff player, uses a 60 degree Cleveland Classic wedge and a Scotty Cameron Prototype putter.

-Johnson used the TaylorMade 5-piece Penta ball for the win.