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Johnson Drives Off with Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Dustin Johnson closed with a 5-under 68 to win the weather-delayed Hyundai Tournament of Champions. The $5.7 million event, the season opener on the PGA Tour, took place on the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort in Maui, Hawaii.
Because high winds and rain wiped out the first three days of the tournament, with the first round yet to be played, the 30-player field - comprised of winners from the 2012 season - was forced to play 36 holes Monday and 18 more Tuesday, reducing the event to 54 holes.
Johnson, who shot 69 and 66 Monday to forge a three-stroke lead over defending champion Steve Stricker, carded six birdies, an eagle on the par-4 14th, a bogey and double-bogey on the par-4 13th to end up at 16-under 203, four shots ahead of Stricker (69).
The win was Johnson's seventh since he joined the PGA Tour, six years after attending Coastal Carolina University. He became the first player since Tiger Woods to win in his first six seasons on Tour since leaving college.
It was also the 28-year-old South Carolinian's third consecutive victory in a Tour event reduced to 54 holes. He also won the 2009 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and 2011 Barclays in similar fashion.
The latest victory assures Johnson of a place in next year's Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He could become the first player since Ernie Els 10 years ago to win the first two events in a Tour season as he's entered in the Sony Open, which starts Thursday in Honolulu. He's also the first current player under 30 years old with seven career titles; 23-year-old Rory McIlroy is next with six, including two majors.
When asked at greenside what his latest win meant, Johnson said, "Obviously, it gives me a lot of confidence. I played really good this week. I hit a couple of bad shots, but all in all I played well today." (See below for his full post-round interview.)
Stricker, who battled leg pain both Monday and Tuesday, tried to put pressure on Johnson and was only a stroke back after Johnson's drive on 13 ended up in deep trouble and he double-bogeyed the hole. But Johnson regained his composure on the 14th, chipping in from off the green for the eagle.
"I had some opportunities," Stricker said at greenside. "All in all, it was a pretty good round. (Johnson) came on strong."
Brandt Snedeker took solo third at 10-under 209 following a 69, while tied for fourth another shot back were Bubba Watson (71) and Keegan Bradley (70). Sharing sixth at 211 were Tommy Gainey (70) and Rickie Fowler, who posted Tuesday's low final round, a 6-under 67.
Carl Pettersson ended up in eighth at 212 after a 70, while another two strokes further back were England's Ian Poulter and Matt Kuchar, who both posted 69s. Mark Wilson (70) and 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson (71) tied for 11th at 215.
For all the scores, visit http://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html.
After signing his scorecard, Johnson sat down with reporters for the following interview.
MODERATOR: We want to congratulate and welcome Dustin Johnson, winner of the 2013 Hyundai Tournament of Champions and first winner of the PGA Tour season. Four stroke victory, but you had your moments out there where it looked like you might stumble a little, and you just would fight right back. Talk about the win today and what it means to get the victory.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, it means a lot. I've had a few leads at PGA Tour events, and it means a lot today, especially for my confidence, and just for all the things I've been working on and all the hard work I've put in. It definitely got close out there today. Some times I hit a couple bad drives, but I was always able to bounce back and do what I needed to do to stay out front.
Q. (What was going through your head on 13).
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I mean, I don't know what was going through my head. Obviously I was mad. I just hit a terrible drive. I knew that I needed to it was close with Strick. I knew he was in the fairway and he was going to hit a good shot. I knew I needed to at least I was trying to get a par putt. I hit the shot, I thought I could actually get it out and then I couldn't get it out. Then just hit it up there on the green and actually made a pretty good 2 putt for double. But yeah, walking off that tee, I wasn't too happy with myself. There's a lot of things I could have done different on that hole that would have saved me a lot of frustration, but you know, I've been driving it really well all week. Just unfortunately that was probably the worst swing I made all day and it cost me a couple shots.
MODERATOR: Steve talked about on the next hole about pulling driver right back out on 14 and what a big shot that was, and talk about that decision to hit driver.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I hit driver - who knows, in the two rounds I played yesterday, and hit good shots. It's a hole that I like to hit driver on. You know, obviously I just made a really poor swing with the driver on the last hole but I stride to block that out of my mind and focus on my target and where I wanted to hit that drive. I hit a really good drive up there just short of the green and hit a great chip. Chipped it right in.
Q. What was your biggest shot?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: The chip on 14 was definitely the biggest shot. Maybe the drive; the drive set it up all. I hit a great drive right at the flag which came up just short, and I had a really easy pitch. Fortunate to hit a great pitch and went right in the middle.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: It was nowhere near ho hum. I had to really fight hard. Got off to a good start. I was really pleased with 3 under through eight, because for some reason, I think for me, the front plays tougher than the back. 3 under through 8, obviously I'm thinking I'm going to birdie 9, and then just made a God awful swing at a driver. Hit it in the right bushes. But I came back on the next and hit a good drive and hit it on the green and 2 putt for bogey. So I wasn't too bad. I was a little bit frustrated with that swing I made with the driver. But that's another hole where it cost me a couple shots just making a poor swing.
Q. Standing over that on 13 -
DUSTIN JOHNSON: No, I mean, I really expected him to make it. When Steve is standing over a putt, you kind of always expect it to go in. He hit a lot of great putts today that didn't go in and could have made it a lot closer. But obviously I hit a couple of drives that if I had driven it in the fairway, it's really not going to be that close.
Q. And if -
DUSTIN JOHNSON: There's a lot of ifs in golf.
Q. There are a lot of players that try to figure out how to handle double bogeys in the final round when they are leading. What is it in your makeup that allows to you do that?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, I've done it enough times that it doesn't really bother me anymore (laughter). I've been in this situation enough now and I've made enough double bogeys in my life, that, you know, it's just another hole, and you've got a lot more holes to go where you can make it up. Fortunately today I made a double and then the next hole I made eagle. That definitely was the turning point of the day, because walking off 13, I was like, oh, no, here it goes again. But I came right back, focused and hit two great shots.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I didn't really have any anxiety. It was actually kind of nice. I really didn't even hit a golf shot until yesterday. Having a late tee time, we got a little bit lucky, because the other guys were the guinea pigs that went out on the course and figured out that it wasn't playable. We were in the clubhouse watching kind of laughing a little bit at some of the stuff that was going on (laughter).
Q. Knowing your potential, what in your view is your potential?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I mean, you know, I played three really good rounds this week. But I still don't think I've lived up to my potential. Obviously this week I did. I played really well. But still made some mistakes. But you're always going to make some mistakes. Just limiting those will definitely help, and then for me, just making some better decisions. If I keep playing golf like I'm playing right now, then, you know, obviously there is no limit.
Q. If you had to do it all over again on 13 -
DUSTIN JOHNSON: On 13, if I had it to do over, I definitely would not hit driver.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, there are certain situations where it's okay for me, but on that hole, I get a 3 iron and 8 iron on the green, I probably should have just hit a 3 iron right down the fairway and hit a little 8 iron on the green, because it's a tough hole. Whether I have a driver down there and I've got a sand wedge, it's still hard to get it close to the hole. So I should have just hit 3 iron, 8 iron, 2 putted and gone to the next hole and hit my driver up there. But, in the situation, and for me, I wasn't really thinking like that. But now this next week, I will be thinking like that.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, there's situations you can always make - there's some situations where you can just play a smarter shot, like on that hole where it's a tough hole, anyways. It doesn't really - it's not really an advantage for me to hit a driver up there, because it really doesn't help. So on a hole like that, you know, 9, I'm always going to hit driver. But on that hole, you know, I could have hit a 3 iron today. Would have been a smarter shot and I probably would have made 4.
Q. 14 you would have played the same?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Oh, yeah. I hit it good, I just hit it really slow. I hit it exactly how I wanted to. Yesterday I hit the same exact shot, just a little higher in the air and got right on the front.
Q. (Regarding assist by Stricker in searching for golf ball).
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, golf is a gentleman's game, and so we always help each other look for balls. Especially if you need it, and so obviously that was nice of him. But generally you go help your partner or your playing partner find his ball. But once I actually found it, I had a terrible lie. I was just trying to get it out in the rough and where I could hit it at the green. But I didn't swing hard enough and it didn't come out.
Q. Your thoughts on going to Waialae next week?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: No, I like that golf course. I've played well there the couple times I've played it. It's a golf course that fits my eye pretty well. Here where I hit driver on every hole; and there, I really don't hit many drivers.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, Steve's a great player, he's a world class guy, and I always enjoy playing golf with him. We had a pretty good battle out there today. He had a few putts he could have made and I had a few shots I could have saved. But you know, you could tell that his hip was bothering him a little bit, but I don't think it bothered him when he was swinging. It was more when he was walking.
Q. Did you have any kind of -
DUSTIN JOHNSON: No. I wish, but no.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, at the time I didn't even think about it. I was hitting driver and I never even thought about hitting another club. So I was focused and I had just made birdie. I hit driver yesterday, though, both times. So I never even thought about not hitting driver.
Q. Can you think of another course in the world -
DUSTIN JOHNSON: This course I really enjoy playing. It's a lot of fun. Like I said, you can hit driver on every hole. It's wide open, too, for the most part. You can find some bushes every once in awhile. But yeah, it's a lot of fun. The par-5s are reachable. You've got a few holes that you can drive it up there close to the green and then there's a few holes that are just really hard.
MODERATOR: Up by the green and as you were getting ready to putt for the victory, there was a lot of people standing around, a lot of the members of the media and folks were saying, he's going to get to No.2 in the world, this is going to be a great year for him. At the end of the year; you've won now the beginning, but at the end of the year, what is your ideal?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: For me, I don't really look ahead that far. I kind of go week to week. I'm looking at next week where I want to go in and play three good round and then contend on Sunday for another victory. That's my goal. And then for this year, I don't really look at goals like that. I kind of there's some things that I need to improve in my game, and if I do, that then the rest will fall into place.
MODERATOR: We are going to try to get them to make it a 54 hole event.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: If they want to do that, I'll be very happy. I don't know, I mean, one of them, the first victory of 54 holes was at Pebble where they just cancelled the last round. We couldn't play. Then the other one was at The Barclays at Plainfield. They told us on Friday that Saturday is the last day, we've got to get out of here. And then this was another week where they told us it was going to be 54 holes. I don't know what it is, though. I guess I've just got a good 54 hole vibe.
MODERATOR: Be ready for the Champions Tour.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I will be. I've got a long way to go but I will be ready for the Champions Tour.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.