Everyone who follows professional golf is aware that the best of Dustin Johnson is special, but this was just ridiculous.
With a Sunday 8-under 63, the 36-year-old Tour star reached 30-under for the week, at The Northern Trust, the first event of the FedExCup playoffs by an unbelievable 11(!) strokes. In just pummeling a stacked field at TPC Boston, Johnson captured his 22nd career win, second win of the 2020 season, and record-tying fifth FedExCup playoff event.
Not only did Johnson overtake Justin Thomas for the top spot in the $15 million FedExCup standings, he also overtook Jon Rahm for the top spot in the Official World Golf Rankings, a position he has held several times in the past. Coming into the week, he was 15th in the former, and 4th in the latter.
The 11-stroke margin of victory was the largest in any tournament since Phil Mickelson took the 2006 BellSouth Classic by 13 strokes. Only the 31-under-par winning score set by Ernie Els at the 2003 Mercedes Championship at Kapalua was lower in relation to par.
The entirety of the Tour was in awe of the domination they witnessed at the hands of one of the game’s biggest hitters, but it was probably put best by fellow Tour player Max Homa who tweeted: “If DJ plays that new PGA video game, he’s gunna think it makes golf way too difficult.”
From Friday on, it looked like Johnson was playing a different game than everyone else.
Coming off a runner-up performance at the PGA Championship two weeks ago, his fifth runner-up finish in a major, Johnson opened up The Northern Trust with a solid 67, just three back of the 64 shot by four players.
Then the fireworks started.
In Friday’s second round, Tour rookie Scottie Scheffler, who was paired with Johnson in the final Sunday grouping at the PGA Championship, made early waves with a 12-under 59, making him just the 11th player in Tour history to record a sub-60 round. As impressive as that was, however, Johnson threatened to annihilate the one-day scoring records when he exploded out of the Friday gate and played his first 11 holes in 11-under.
He parred his last eight holes in what, somehow, was kind of a disappointing 60, the ultimate “what could have been” round, but the disappointment did not plague Johnson over the weekend. A Saturday 64 left him five clear going into Sunday, and nobody even lightly threatened DJ on Sunday, as he left the field in his dust with his final-round 63.
Harris English ended up finishing second at 19-under, followed by the red-hot Daniel Berger at 18-under, 12 strokes back. DJ even finished 25 strokes ahead of Kevin Streelman, after trailing him by three through 18 holes. It was utter domination.
This win puts Johnson in the driver’s seat to win his first career FedExCup Championship, with the top 70 set to play the second event, next week’s BMW Championship at Olympia Fields outside of Chicago.
Johnson has finished in the top 5 of the final FedExCup standings five times, including a runner-up to Rory McIlroy in 2016. Rory is the only player in history to match Johnson’s five playoff victories.
Johnson’s 22 career Tour victories ranks second among active players (Tiger Woods, 82), and ties him from 27th all-time with Jim Barnes, Johnny Farrell, and Raymond Floyd. With two more victories, Johnson will tie legendary nine-time major champion Gary Player for 26th all-time.
Johnson’s resume might be lacking major championships, with just the 2016 U.S. Open to his name, but if he is able to sustain his current level of play into the upcoming stretch of majors in the COVID-effected Tour reschedule, he could very well add to that number as well.
Leaderboard: Final Top 10
Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Dustin Johnson -30 (-8)
2. Harris English -19 (-2)
3. Daniel Berger -18 (-4)
4. Kevin Kisner -17 (-5)
4. Scottie Scheffler -17 (E)
6. Jon Rahm -16 (-6)
6. Webb Simpson -16 (-5)
8. Ryan Palmer -15 (-4)
8. Russell Henley -15 (-3)
8. Alex Noren -15 (-3)
25. Xander Schauffele -11 (-4)
25. Justin Rose -11 (-4)
25. Tyrrell Hatton -11 (+1)
29. Hideki Matsuyama -10 (-1)
44. Tommy Fleetwood -8 (-1)
49. Rickie Fowler -7 (-2)
49. Patrick Reed -7 (-2)
49. Justin Thomas -7 (E)
49. Paul Casey -7 (E)
59. Tiger Woods -6 (-5)
59. Adam Scott -6 (-4)
65. Rory McIlroy -2 (-3)
How Dustin Johnson Won The Northern Trust
Finishing the week with more eagles (5) than bogeys (3) was a telling sign that this was a special week for DJ. Always a statistical monster, he led the field for the week in strokes gained: approach-the-green, strokes gained: tee-to-green, greens in regulation (hit all 18 on Sunday), and strokes gained: total. He was second in driving distance and strokes gained: off-the-tee, and still finished T9 in strokes gained: putting despite losing nearly three strokes to the field on the greens on Thursday.
Johnson himself called his ball striking “unbelievable” this week. He has twice led the Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green, however, so these kind of weeks with his iron are not TOO out of the ordinary. His issues in the current season have been from closer up, as he ranks 120th in strokes gained: around-the-green.
Johnson’s Winning Numbers
Driving: 320.0 yards (2nd)
Fairways: 38/56, 67.86% (29th)
Greens: 65/72, 90.28% (1st)
Putts/GIR: 1.600 (1st)
Scores: 5 Eagles, 23 Birdies, 41 Pars, 3 Bogeys
What It Means For Johnson
Johnson’s season had been rather ordinary, but his lofty standards, until his victory at June’s Travelers Championship in Connecticut. He followed that up with a perplexing 80-80 missed cut at The Memorial Tournament, and then withdrew from the 3M Open after an opening 78, but rebounded with a T12 at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, and the T2 at the PGA Championship at Harding Park in San Francisco.
Johnson did not exactly reach new heights for his career this week, but he continues to establish himself as one of the great week-to-week threats in modern golf. Where his legacy is still lacking, though, is in the majors, and he is young enough to add some championships in that regard, despite the strength of the Tour currently being with the youth.
DJ’s 2020 Season
Cuts Made: 9
Wins: 2 (Travelers, The Northern Trust)
Addtl Top 10s: 4
Earnings: $4,811,267 (5th)
FedEx Pts: 2,571 (1st)
World Rank Before/After: 4/1
In the second year of the new FedExCup playoff format (changed from four events to three), the top 125 in the regular season standings were invited to The Northern Trust, but 55 of those 125 saw their seasons come to an end in Boston, with only the top 70 remaining moving onto the BMW Championship. This week, six players moved from outside the top 70 to inside, and thus see their seasons continue.
In: Russell Henley (101 to 61), Alex Noren (78 to 47), Harry Higgs (72 to 48), Robbie Shelton (81 to 62), Jason Kokrak (90 to 66), Louis Oosthuizen (99 to 70)
Out: Denny McCarthy (65 to 73), Phil Mickelson (67 to 75), Henrik Norlander (68 to 76), Xinjun Zhang (70 to 78), Sung Kang (61 to 72), Doc Redman (60 to 71)
Final Top 70 bubble:
66. Jason Kokrak
67. Maverick McNealy
68. Max Homa
69. Charles Howell III
70. Louis Oosthuizen
71. Doc Redman
72. Sung Kang
73. Denny McCarthy
74. Troy Merritt
75. Phil Mickelson
Other big names just missing: Justin Rose (91), Tommy Fleetwood (92), Rickie Fowler (94), Brooks Koepka (104), Jordan Spieth (107), and Shane Lowry (123).
After next week, just the remaining top 30 players in the standings will move onto the Tour Championship at famed East Lake. Among those who will need a strong showing in Chicago to advance include Gary Woodland (39), Jason Day (50), Matt Kuchar (55), Tiger Woods (57), Bubba Watson (58), Paul Casey (64), and Louis Oosthuizen (70).
(Other) Sunday’s Stars
Johnson put the pedal to the ground on Sunday, as his Sunday 63 tied for the lowest round 4 score in the field. The man he tied with was little-known Robbie Shelton, who had four birdies and an eagle in his final six holes to rocket 42 spots up the final leaderboard, from T55 to T13. The 24-year-old Alabama product has mostly struggled since the COVID layoff, but shone on the weekend both times he made the cut, shooting a final-round 64 at the 3M Open to finish a career best T3.
This is Shelton’s first trip to the playoffs, and his excellent Sunday put him into the field for next week’s BMW Championship.
Jon Rahm has now twice reached the top of the world rankings in the past month, but both times immediately got overtaken on the top. This time, it came in spite of a final round 6-under 65 that moved him from T20 to T6 on the final leaderboard. It was Rahm’s first top 10 since his runaway victory at last month’s The Memorial Tournament, and put him in the ninth spot in the FedExCup standings, locking him into the battle at East Lake in two weeks.
A year ago, Jason Kokrak was the biggest surprise name to finish in the top 30 of the FedExCup standings and make the finale, and after a tremendous Sunday, the 35-year-old took a big step forward to make the field again this year. His bogey-free 6-under 65 moved him 21 spots up the final leaderboard from 34th to T13, and more importantly, moving him from 90th to 66th in the FedExCup standings. He will need a phenomenal showing in Chicago to earn a repeat trip to East Lake, however.
Tiger Woods posted his best round of the week, a 5-under 66, which included birdies on each of the first four holes. The Tour legend only finished T58 for the week, but is trending in the right direction and did play well enough to stay inside the top 70 (57), and extend his magical season at least another week.
Scottie Scheffler made a name for himself the last time he teed up, contending at the PGA Championship, and even getting himself into the final Sunday pairing with Dustin Johnson. He would go on to finish T4.
There was no major hangover, as he shot a second-round 59 at TPC Boston. However, his magic appeared to wear out on Sunday, as a pedestrian even-par 71 was 12 strokes worse than his round 2 score. Still, a T4 showing for the rookie adds another great result to a standout season, and at 14th in the FedExCup standings, he will make the East Lake field in his first attempt.
Sunday had both good news and bad news for former Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen. At 15-under par, he was inside the top 15 after 54 holes, but a shocking double-bogey on the par-5 2nd derailed his early chances, as he went on to shoot a poor 2-over 73, which knocked him nine spots into a tie for 13th.
However, with a birdie on the final hole, he finished just high enough to hold the 70th position in the FedExCup standings. The South African will need an out-of-this-world performance in Chicago if he wants to get to East Lake for the fourth time.
Also posting a 2-over 73 on Sunday was 18-hole co-leader Cameron Davis, who followed up a 64-65 start with a 72-73 weekend. His difficult Sunday moved him 20 spots down the final leaderboard into a share of 29th. To make matters worse, the Aussie finished outside the top 70 in the FedExCup standings, putting an end to his season.
Sometimes it pays to follow players on Twitter. Joel Dahmen missed the cut this week by a single stroke. Afterwards, he posted on Twitter looking to play fans for money in the Boston area, and found a lucky few.
At 41st in the FedExCup standings, Dahmen will be busy at least his first two days in Chicago though. Phil Mickelson missed the cut and saw his season come to an end as he finished 75th in the standings, but the 50-year-old Tour mainstay will be making his Champions Tour debut next week.
Despite his age, Mickelson still averages over 300 yards driving. It seems unlikely that he will not have great success against his older peers.
“Really Good Golf…”
“Obviously, this is a really good week. My ball striking was unbelievable. I found something on Wednesday; you know, I felt like I was swinging really good, but something really clicked on Wednesday. I hit it really, really well on Thursday; I didn’t really make a lot of putts, but I really worked hard on my putting on Thursday afternoon, and it paid off.
“Obviously, I was rolling it really nicely on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
“At the PGA, I felt like I played really good on Sunday. I played a nice, solid round. This week, I played some really good golf, and it was a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to the rest of the FedExCup playoffs; I’ve got myself into a really good position going into East Lake and then obviously next week too. Next week is still a big tournament and I’m looking forward to Olympia Fields, I havn’t played there yet.”
– Dustin Johnson