Dustin Johnson Secures 21st PGA Tour Victory at Travelers
DUSTIN JOHNSON won the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands after four days of astonishing scoring on one of the Tour’s easier courses. The American shot a final round of 67. He finished on 19 under par to defeat former champion Kevin Streelman by a shot. In the process he recorded his 21st victory on the PGA and continued his remarkable record of having won at least once every year since joining the Tour.
He has now won in every one of his 13 years on Tour and has more victories to his name than any current player under the age of 40.
“I putted really nicely this week,” he said. “I didn’t strike the ball well today but I figured out a way to get it done. It’s a great streak and I am proud of myself and want to keep it going. It feels great to get the win. I felt that I was due and I have put in some work over the past couple of weeks."
It was here that Jim Furyk shot a 58 and several players threatened that score. When players are making 61s, 62s and 63s for fun then you know the layout is not quite as testing as the ones they faced at Colonial and Harbour Town, but it made for some pretty exciting viewing, with birdies and eagles being made in huge numbers.
The scoring is all the more remarkable when you learn that there are only two par fives on the courses, but several of the par fours can be reached from the tee - and these guys were making mincemeat of it. It is fair to say that sterner tests lie ahead, not least when they roll up at Muirfield Village on successive weeks. But that’s for the future.
While it is fun to watch the best players in the world being made to think about what they are doing, there is also something special about watching them tear golf courses to shreds, although when the pressure started to tell we witnessed a series of mistakes, some of which defied belief.
Brendon Todd had been going for his third victory of the season, having started the campaign with four missed cuts. But then he won twice, and very nearly made it three on the trot at the RSM Classic, where he led after 54 holes. When the PGA Tour restarted he began with two more missed cuts, but he played superbly for the first 54 holes at the Travelers. He went into the final round having missed only one fairway. He had recorded 19 birdies and dropped a solitary shot.
This is a man who was ready to quit the game after suffering full swing yips. Two years ago he was ranked 2,004th in the world. The 34-year-old had to go back to the drawing board and start all over again. And he has come back to the game like a man possessed.
Could he record win number three of a remarkable season? It looked like he might do so until a triple-bogey seven at the 12th ended his challenge.
It was a world-class leaderboard, featuring the likes of Johnson, who began the round two behind Todd, the incredible physical specimen that is now Bryson DeChambeau, world no1 Rory McIlroy, former winner Streelman, Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, looking for a win at the age of 50.
DeChambeau was the first to make a move, a birdie at the second taking him to 14 under, four adrift. He would eventually finish on 15 under.
Todd made a solid start, finding the first two fairways, making safe pars and moved to the third still two ahead of Johnson. But he knew that he couldn’t afford to relax. He decided early on that accuracy was more important than distance - at the fourth, for instance, he took a three wood from the tee and was 70 yards behind playing partner Johnson, who birdied the hole to reduce the deficit to one. And when he birdied the next as well he and Todd were tied for the lead at 18 under.
The big early move was being made by the young Norwegian star Viktor Hovland, who birdied four of the first seven holes to move to 15 under par, three behind Todd. Hovland was tied with Streelman and Mackenzie Hughes, who began the tournament with a 60. Unfortunately, Hovland ran out of steam.
McIlroy was one over for the day after four holes, but then birdied the sixth, seventh and 10th and followed it with an eagle at the 13th to move to 14 under. With a big finish, he could still challenge for the title. He narrowly missed a birdie at the 15th but picked up another shot at the 16th. Three behind, he was fast running out of holes. And he took a double-bogey at the 17th, He eventually signed for a 67 and a 13-under-par finishing total.
Todd finally missed his second fairway of the week at the seventh hole.
Streelman had moved to within two of the lead. When he won in 2014 he finished with seven birdies - an indication of what can be achieved on this course, which only measures 6,800 yards. Seconds later, DeChambeau picked another birdie, which took him to 15 under.
Johnson dropped his first shot of the day at the seventh to hand the lead back to Todd. But he bounced straight back with a 25-footer at the next.
Meanwhile Will Gordon, in the field on a sponsor’s invite, had moved to 16 under. If he could finish in the top three he would earn temporary membership of the PGA Tour and he made another moved in the right direction when he moved to 17 under, where he finished after a round of 64. It left him in a tie for third with Mackenzie Hughes.
When Johnson birdied the ninth he was 19 under par and one ahead. Todd had parred every hole. And the Dustinator wasn’t finished, holing a putt from off the 10th green for yet another birdie to take a two-shot lead.
It all came undone for Todd at the 12th. He put his approach in a horrible spot on the upslope of a greenside bunker, shanked his third, fluffed his fourth, failed to reach the green with his fifth and walked off with a triple-bogey seven. He was now five behind Johnson, who led Gordon and Streelman by three.
Incredibly, Johnson drove out of bounds at the par-five 13th and just as he did so, Streelman moved to 18 under. This tournament wasn’t finished yet. Johnson dropped a shot and went to the 14th one ahead of Streelman. That became two when he holed a 15-footer for another birdie.
Johnson was within a couple of inches of finding the water at the next, a reachable par four, and had to remove his shoes and socks to play his second but was unable to find the green. However he managed to salvage a par and led by two with three to play. And at that point the hooter sounded as a storm arrived.
Play was held up for about an hour. And Johnson seemed determined to make a contest of it when he bunkered his tee shot at the par three 16th, dropped a shot and fell back to 19 under. The lead was one. Streelman parred the 17th and found the 18th in two, knowing he had to hole the putt for a birdie to put some pressure on Johnson, but he was unable to convert and finished with a 67 and an 18 under par total. It meant Johnson only required a par at the last to win and a drive in excess of 350 yards meant it was a formality.
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