Zach Johnson proved small ball can also work at big, sprawling Kapalua, chasing down the leaders – sound familiar? – with a flawless 7-under 66 and winning the Hyundai Tournament of Champions by one on Monday. Here is the skinny from the final round on Maui:
The leaderboard: Zach Johnson (-19); Jordan Spieth (-18); Kevin Streelman and Webb Simpson at -17; Jason Dufner (-15)
What it means: This victory reaffirms that Johnson, 37, is playing the best golf of his career. It’s his third title in his last six starts, including the unofficial victory over Tiger Woods at the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge, and he is expected to move to a career-best No. 7 in the Official World Ranking. No longer can Johnson only win on courses that fit his eye; Kapalua is a bomber’s paradise, and the short-knocker dissected the place with his precise wedge game. Prior to this week, he had finished inside the top 18 only once in six tries on the Plantation Course. Looking big picture, since 2004, only Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh have more wins on the PGA Tour than Johnson.
Round of the day: Hey, maybe it was a good omen that Johnson shot a one-birdie 74 Sunday and dropped two shots behind the leaders. Entering this week, seven of his 10 wins came when he trailed after 54 holes. Victory No. 11 was another comeback win, this time after a sensational 66 that rocketed him atop a crowded leaderboard. “I’m just comfortable there,” he said of being a pursuer. Trailing by one at the turn, Johnson made four birdies on the back nine, including three in a row on Nos. 14-16, to grab the lead.
Best of the rest: Vying to become the third youngest player to win multiple Tour titles, Jordan Spieth squandered several good opportunities but still shot 69 to finish solo second, his fourth runner-up finish on Tour. Billy Horschel vaulted 13 spots on the leaderboard with a closing 66, earning him a T-6 finish. Kevin Streelman (T-3) and Matt Kuchar (T-6) turned in 67s that secured them high finishes. Jason Dufner, who said he would rather sacrifice his own success in Hawaii to see Auburn win the BCS National Championship, shot a final-round 69 and finished solo fifth.
Biggest disappointment: Tied for the 54-hole lead and trying to become the third player in the last decade to win back-to-back TOC titles, Dustin Johnson instead bogeyed his first two holes, dropped five shots in all, shot 73 and tied for sixth, five shots behind the winner.
Shot of the day: Johnson was downright clinical with a wedge in his hand.
Quote of the day: “I just picked it apart. I didn’t deviate from anything I typically do on the golf course,” – Zach Johnson, on how he was able to handle Kapalua’s Plantation Course.