A Fitting End
This is the second year that the PGA Tour has adopted its staggered start for the season ending Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club. It is two events in one because it is the last event in the season long FedEx Cup, with the FedEx winner being awarded a whopping bonus of US $15 million.
And the view at the top remained the status quo as the world’s two hottest golfers, world #1 Dustin Johnson and world #2 Jon Rahm shared the lead after the opening round at 13-under par. 13-under after one round? Yes. Leading the Playoffs Johnson had the advantage of beginning the tournament at 10-under while Rahm was in second at 8-under Ergo, Johnson shot a 3-under 67 to reach 13-under while Rahm recorded at 5-under 65 that would tie Johnson at 13-under.
It’s still going to take some getting used to. Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm co-lead after the first round at 13 under, but they didn’t shoot 57’s to reach that score.
The cream continued to rise to the top as world #3 and 3-time winner in 2020, Justin Thomas carded a 4-under 66 putting him two behind the leaders at 11-under. New Dad Rory McIlroy announced his plans for the defense of his title with a day’s best 64 that vaulted him into 4th at 9-under.
It doesn’t get much more marquee than that. The elite field of 30 players were vying for the richest purse in the history of the game with the player finishing last collecting a massive $400,000 “thanks for coming” pay-out.
The cream began to sour however in Saturday’s second round. Johnson managed to keep a one-shot lead after a mediocre even par 70 over 2019 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, South Korea’s Sungjae Im, whose 6-under 64 was the best round of the day.
A further stroke back at 11-under was a fast finishing Xander Schauffele and he in turn led Thomas by one. England’s Tyrell Hatton, newly crowned PGA Champion, Collin Morikawa and Rahm were all another behind at 9-under while McIlroy slipped into a tie for 9th at 8-under.
The dominant Johnson returned on Sunday’s third round when the 36-year old Carolinian overpowered East Lake with a day’s best 64 and a 3-day total of 19-under that sent him into Monday’s final round with a 5 shot advantage over Schauffele and Thomas.
Rahm was one behind them and Morikawa was a further stroke behind him at 13-under. Daniel Berger tied Johnson for the best of the day with a 64 of his own to jump to 10-under, tied with Im, but unless Johnson collapsed in Monday’s finale, this was all over bar the shouting. Of course, there was no shouting because there were no spectators.
There are over a hundred players capable of winning a PGA Tour event. There is only a handful of those players that can dominate a tournament like Johnson.
Johnson was not dominant on Monday but he was certainly good enough and after a 2-under 68 he finished at 21-under for the event and 3 shots clear of Schauffele and Thomas. Rahm was one behind in fourth place capping his best year to date on Tour.
This is Johnson’s third win of the season and his 23rd career victory which in this day and age is a remarkable accomplishment (it is also the 15th consecutive year that the laid back DJ has won an event).
It puts him into contention for the “Player of the Year” award that he won in 2016 and further cements his ranking at the top of men’s professional world golf. With so many great players today, what Johnson is achieving is truly special.