LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Even before it was over, you knew it was over.
For all of Jim Furyk’s accolades, he has struggled to close out tournaments of late – or simply been closed out by a better performance.
The last five times Furyk had held the 54-hole lead on the PGA TOUR, he failed to convert any of them into a win. Monday, he extended that streak to six in a row, shooting an even-par 71 that included three bogeys over his final eight holes to finish three back of winner Zach Johnson.
It was hardly all Furyk’s fault, though.
Johnson did his part with a sensational 65 that included six birdies -- two of which came over his final three holes -- and zero bogeys.
The win was the 10th of Johnson’s career and first this season. It also moved him to fourth in the FedExCup standings, which means he can win the FedExCup with a victory at next week’s TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola in a state, Georgia, where nearly one-third of all his victories have come.
“One of the best final rounds I probably have come up with in a while,” Johnson said. “Especially coming down the stretch.”
For Johnson, his entire season came down to how he performed down the stretch.
He entered the FedExCup Playoffs playing catch-up after missing the first of the four events because of best man duties for his brother’s wedding. But hey, you can’t miss your brother’s wedding.
The following week outside Boston, Johnson needed to make a 25-foot birdie putt on the last hole to earn the 10th and final spot on the Presidents Cup team. He did.
Then came a return trip to Conway Farms, a Tom Fazio-designed course that hosted the 1997 NCAA Tournament that Johnson played in. It was also where Johnson played a practice round the day before his brother’s wedding, figuring it was a good idea to get his “feet on the ground” because it was the first time a TOUR event had been played here.
At 27th in FedExCup points, Johnson was also on the bubble for making it to the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. Only the top 30 qualify for the finale.
“It's hard to grasp the last two weeks of golf because I was trying to make that Presidents Cup team without trying to make it,” Johnson said. “I was trying to get in the top 30 this week without trying to make it."
He did it in style, rallying from three back while nearly everyone around him struggled on a bright but blustery day outside the Windy City.
“I've got to keep that in the memory bank and certainly relish it, but more than that, I've got to remember it and try to utilize some of the things I've learned over the last three weeks," Johnson said. "You know, not trying too hard in certain instances when you're trying to make certain things. That's hard to do. If there's any pride, it's the fact that I was able to get the job done on those two occasions.”
The same couldn’t be said for Furyk, who played himself out of a Captain’s pick by Fred Couples and out of a half-dozen wins the last two years, including two this season.
Leading by one at the start of the day after bad weather forced a Monday finish, and just three days removed from becoming only the sixth player in TOUR history to shoot 59, Furyk’s fade came quickly on the back nine with a three-putt bogey from just off the green on the par-3 11th and another on the par-4 13th, where he missed a 5-footer to save par.
But in reality the slide started even before then when Furyk failed to convert birdie chances on Nos. 7, 8 and 9 -- three of the easiest holes on the golf course.
“Wedges in your hand, I make no birdies,” Furyk said. “You know, 1 under on the front was kind of -- I really felt like about as bad as I could have played.
“I guess had it not been for Zach, I would have still had a really good opportunity to win the golf tournament. I hit the ball plenty good enough, but I didn't make the putts when I needed to.”
Luke Donald, on the other hand, did.
After entering the week needing a tie for sixth or better to earn a spot in the field at East Lake, Donald, who lives at Conway Farms, charged up the leaderboard with birdies on six of his last 11 holes for a final-round 66 to tie for fourth.
Matt Jones wasn’t as fortunate.
The Australian lipped out a 10-footer for birdie on the last hole and a result fell out of the top 30 in the FedExCup standings, costing him not only a spot in next week’s TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola but, at least for now, next year’s Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship.
Tiger Woods, meanwhile, wasn’t a factor despite starting the day in fifth place only four shots back.
He shot even par and finished in a tie for 11th. It was at least good enough to move him back to No. 1 in the FedExCup standings after Henrik Stenson tied for 33rd to drop to No. 2.
Adam Scott and Matt Kuchar rounded out the top 5.