Johnson & Johnson
The season opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua in Maui; oh wait….scratch that. The Tournament of Champions is the first event in 2014 on the PGA Tour but it is the seventh official event of the season. Yes, really. That is because the PGA Tour season starts now in October. At some point we are going to get comfortable with that.
The winners only Tournament of Champions is a star filled event that was without the game’s two biggest stars, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, but was still compelling viewing. Especially if majestic beaches, tropical backdrops and humpback whales are your thing. And of course, great golf.
Kapalua golf course is a rare par 73 layout that has five par 5’s and drastic elevation changes. With the prevailing Kona winds, scoring usually resembles a roller coaster ride of eagles, birdies and bogies where a 3 shot swing on any hole can change the leaderboard dramatically.
The tournament became the story of two Johnsons who could not be more different. Dustin Johnson who may be the longest hitter on the Tour and Zach who is one of the shortest hitters on Tour. Dustin whose putting blows hot and cold and Zach who may be the Tour’s best putter. Casual surfer dude, Dustin and Midwestern bulldog, Zach. Ying and Yang.
For the first three days it looked like defending Champion, Dustin would be another back to back winner of the event until the wheels came off in his final round front 9. Paulina Gretzky’s free-wheeling fiancé made three careless bogies and surrendered his lead to 20 year old sensation, Jordan Spieth.
Spieth, last years’ Rookie of the Year and the newest “can’t miss kid” faltered slightly during his back 9 by missing short putts on holes 14, 15 and 16 to close with a 3-under par 70 and finish in a tie for second with Webb Simpson. Simpson’s fine showing propelled him to the top of the FedEx Cup standings.
It would however be Zach who would emerge as the victorious Johnson. Playing his brand of superbly consistent golf, hitting fairways and greens, Johnson closed with a flawless 7-under par 66 to capture his third win in his last six starts.
This was also his 11th win in his 11th year on Tour which puts the 37 year old Iowan in some exalted company. The only two other players under-40 that have ten or more victories on the PGA Tour are Tiger Woods and Adam Scott. Many people may guess those two correctly but not many would put the unassuming Zach into that trio. With this latest win Zach is now the #7 ranked player in the world.
For Dustin, Kapalua would be another lost opportunity in a resume that is compiling quite a few of them. His swashbuckling style of play will always mean that he walks a precipitous line between success and failure but there comes a time when a player who aspires to be great needs to become a closer. If Dustin can ever combine Zach’s grit and determination with his unbelievable talent, we would most certainly have the next “great” player.