|Johnson beats his rivals before Irene hits town|
Dustin Johnson wins The Barclays but is last in race to the airport.
By Paul Mahoney
With Hurricane Irene closing in on New Jersey, Dustin Johnson wrapped up the trivial pursuits at Plainfield Country to win The Barclays Championship. He collected a first prize of $1.44 million to go top of the FedExCup rankings and up to World No.4. But, crucially, it also meant he was last to the leave the course in the dash to get out of town.
Johnson fired a third, and final, round six under par 65 to finish the reduced to 54-holes event at 19 under par, two shots clear of overnight leader Matt Kuchar with Brant Snedeker and Vijay Singh tied third at 16 under par. World No.1 Luke Donald was 11 under par and Phil Mickelson was eight under par in a bizarre day of threeballs, split tees. and breakfast tee times as the tournament raced against the impending arrival of Hurricane Irene.
After feeling the effects of Tuesday's earthquake in Washington D.C. it's a miracle The Barclays got finished at all as residents along New Jersey's coastline were evacuated from the path of Irene. Sport always has played a necessary and important part in times of troubles - a welcome distraction from the real world. Johnson put on another unreal display of jaw-dropping driving. He reduced Plainfield's front nine to a pitch and putt. He was a combined 17 under par for his three rounds posting a 30 and two 29s. "I don't know what it is about the front but I played pretty well," Johnson said laughing. "The putts were rolling in. I wish we could have just keep playing the front nine, I would have done really well this week."
Kutchar arrived on Saturday morning knowing that if Irene arrived early and in a bad mood, the tournament would have been cancelled and he would have been declared champion, as he was the 36-hole leader. But the weather held off, apart from a few short sharp showers, to allow for the planned lunchtime finish. "We could have played nine and got stopped. We got lucky," Johnson said before dashing to the airport. "I'm going to be able to get out if I don't take too long," he said laughing.
Johnson stood on the tee of the drivable par four 18th with a two-shot lead over Kuchar. Not the time to do anything stupid. He could have played the hole with two 7-irons but trusted his swing to send a drive 300 yards over the dogleg. Mission accomplished. Waiting in the clubhouse at 16 under par in case there were any closing-hole disasters was Snedeker. He was on for shooting a rare 59 but had to settle for an astonishing 61 and a share of third place. "I had a pretty good idea that I had a chance of shooting special," he said admitting that the prospect of a 59 had indeed entered his head. "Oh, yeah," he said. "I had the chance at San Diego in my rookie year when I was 10 under through 10, and I kind of messed that had one up. Today I knew I had a chance and bogeyed a hole on the back nine. But it was still a lot of fun. I'm getting out of here right now," he added. "Going straight to the airport and trying to get out of here before the storm."
Kuchar had the same idea but first spoke in awe about Johnson's power before he, too, made a run for the hills. "Guys like Dustin Johnson can make golf seem really easy," Kuchar said. "I don't know if I've seen a guy drive the ball a whole lot better than Dustin. For his length, it seems like he rarely goes off line. If you could have any one attribute as a golfer, you would want to drive it like Dustin Johnson. You would want to hit it that far and that accurate. From there, golf gets a whole lot easier."
The Barclays is Johnson's fifth victory, one in each of his years on tour. He is now also a regular contender at the majors and a fan favorite with his brand of smash and grab golf and an easy manner. Once again he has staked a claim to be the new poster boy for American golf in this post-Tiger Woods era.