Dustin Johnson's consistency shines through at Travelers Championship
Claims 21st TOUR victory, now has 13 consecutive seasons with a win
June 28, 2020
By Jim McCabe, PGATOUR.COM
Dustin Johnson shoots 67 to win at Travelers
CROMWELL, Conn. – Given the disparity of their resumes and PGA TOUR travels, it was easy to look at the final pairing in the Travelers Championship Sunday – Brendon Todd and Dustin Johnson – and find yourself searching for ways to accentuate the contrast.
One thought jumped out at me:
Todd once missed the cut in 25 consecutive tournaments – nine to end the PGA TOUR season in 2009, all 13 Korn Ferry Tour starts in 2010, then the first three KFT events in 2011. Johnson, meanwhile, has never gone more than 30 PGA TOUR starts without winning.
Digest that one more time – the biggest drought in Johnson’s 13-year career is 30 tournaments. And that’s only happened once. In fact, only three times has he had winless stretches of 24 or more tournaments.
OK, the human spirit loves the underdog, so it was easy – and almost mandatory – to embrace Todd and how he twice has traveled back from the abyss to find success on the PGA TOUR. From the early turbulence in his career, Todd won on the PGA TOUR in 2014. Then over the next four seasons he missed the cut in 43 of 55 starts.
Yet here he was again, bouncing back with remarkable character, the winner of two tournaments in the fall portion of the 2019-20 season, at 18-under and leading Johnson by two strokes as they began the final round at TPC River Highlands.
What wasn’t to love about how Todd personifies the human spirit?
Nothing, of course, except that sometimes you find yourself guilty of taking things for granted and Johnson’s record is one such example. It is, especially in this age of remarkable balance in professional golf, impressive how consistent he has been since joining the PGA TOUR in 2008.
I would argue that inasmuch as there is hoopla over Bryson DeChambeau’s physique and marvel about Phil Mickelson’s longevity and fascination with all things Tiger Woods and infatuation with the Rory McIlroy’s warmth, what gets the short end far too often is Johnson’s uncanny steadiness.
Might we say he’s a freak of nature?
Austin Johnson, his brother’s caddie, laughed, but shook his head in agreement. “He is that, for sure.”
It was twilight at TPC River Highlands, no more than a hundred people on hand in these strange pandemic days to witness what was Johnson’s 21st PGA TOUR victory. Starting two behind, Johnson made four birdies on the front, turned in 32 to overtake Todd, then seemingly headed into runaway victory with another birdie at the 10th.
Ah, but this is the Travelers Championship, where wildness always happens – and it did so again. No surprise that Johnson hit some turbulence coming home – he pulled his drive OB and bogeyed the par-5 13th and he hit a 3-hybrid nearly into water at the short, par-4 15th, then had to roll up his pants and go in and hack his second shot back into play.
“I hit (that tee shot) very poorly,” bemoaned Johnson, who did salvage par at the 15th with a deft third shot. “I don’t know what was going on with my tee shots.”
Dustin Johnson news conference after winning Travelers
He clearly didn’t come up with a remedy, because after a brief delay for dangerous weather, Johnson returned with his worst swing of the week – a sliced tee shot into a bunker at the par-3 16th. His third bogey of the day left him at 19-under, just one ahead of Kevin Streelman, who had burned the edge of the hole from 26 feet at the par-4 17th.
Come on, if you know Johnson’s saga, a part of you was wondering if this would be yet another of those squanders. The 2010 U.S. Open, the 2011 Open Championship, the 2015 U.S. Open. Heartache, each one. But here is what sits at the heart of Johnson – he took ownership of all those mishaps and he has never failed to shake it off.
But forget the slips at 13 and 15 and 16. What Johnson did at the par-4 17th (fairway, green, two putts from 32 feet) and the par-4 18th (on a day when he hit just 7 of 14 fairways he thumped it 351 yards dead center, wedged it to 18 feet, and two-putted for 67 – 261) speaks to the talent that has stood front and center on the PGA TOUR stage for 13 seasons now.
It was career win No. 21 for a guy who arguably is the purest athlete on the PGA TOUR, a guy whose swagger along should be considered one of his 14 clubs.
Oh, there were contributing factors on this day (Todd struggled mightily, failed to make a birdie, shot 75, and plummeted into a share of 11th; Streelman couldn’t birdie any of the final five holes; and Mackenzie Hughes produced too little, too late to fall two shy) but don’t dismiss the specialness to Johnson’s win.
To start, there is something that shouldn’t get caught up in a logistical tug-of-war. This is Johnson’s 13th season on the PGA TOUR and he’s won at least once in each of them. Only Arnold Palmer (17), Jack Nicklaus (17) and Tiger Woods (14) have started their careers with wins in more consecutive seasons.
No, he hasn’t won every “calendar year,” because he didn’t prevail in 2014. What he did do was win the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in the fall of 2013, which was part of the 2013-14 season.
But while you’re splitting hairs and tackling either side of that debate, my intrigue shifts over to wonderment. Has this man ever – and I mean ever – played an entire season of shoddy golf?
“No,” he said. “I don’t think so – and I hope I don’t start anytime soon. I mean, I put in the work, so I feel that my game should be spot-on all the time.”
He indicated that was great to win, because it’s been a while, but guess what? It’s only been 20 tournaments since his last win, the WGC-Mexico Championship in 2019. When he won the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 2016 it ended his worst dry spell, a whopping 30 tournaments. He then went five tournaments before he won again, then he went six before winning not one, not two, but three in a row.
His dry spells since then? Nine tournaments, four, eight, two, 11 and the record one of 20.
Honestly, enough about guys bulking up, crushing it long, playing into their 50s, and all the other storylines. How about deep appreciation for a guy who consistently provides a high caliber of play? We are told it’s tough to win on the PGA TOUR but the flip side is, it would seem to be impossible not to throw in a clunker of a season here or there.
Johnson might be the exception. Offer that great respect.