Johnson eyes win No. 22, FedExCup title
August 22, 2020
By Jim McCabe , PGATOUR.COM
Dustin Johnson keeps 54-hole lead at THE NORTHERN TRUST
NORTON, Mass. – There was a topic of conversation swirling around TPC Boston early Saturday, the gist of being this: Just how did Dustin Johnson in Friday’s second round of THE NORTHERN TRUST not turn what arguably were the most perfect 11 holes of golf into a 56 or 57 or 58 . . . pick a number, so long as it was smaller than 60?
When that query was posed to a former world No. 1 golfer, he smiled, shrugged, and reminded that, “he’s the same guy who just a few weeks ago shot 80-80.”
In other words, golf cannot be explained. Add the fact that Johnson “limped” home with seven straight pars Friday to settle what a lot of people are suggesting was a disappointing 60 after having been 11-under for 11 holes.
So, onward to another topic that piqued the interest on another quiet walk around TPC Boston. Namely, the jammed leaderboards of late, starting with the spread between leader and the cut number through 36 holes.
Since the return to competition after a pandemic-enforced three-month break, twice those who made the cut on the number were just seven back of the leader, once the number was seven, once it was eight, and three times it was nine.
In other words, nearly everyone was in the hunt and the traffic jam through 54 holes proved it.
At the RBC Heritage, 42 players were within six of the lead entering Round 4; at the PGA Championship it was 28; at the Charles Schwab Challenge it was 25; and at the 3M Open it was 22.
Of course, further contemplation about this topic came to a screeching halt shortly after play resumed in Saturday’s third round of THE NORTHERN TRUST and sure enough, there was Johnson in the middle of things again.
This time, he wasn’t questioned about the way he finished to shoot only 60; he was lauded for the way in which he closed out to post a blistering 64. Leading by two, Johnson drained an 18-foot birdie putt at the par-4 17th, then went driver, 5 iron from 218 yards, and 40-foot putt for eagle.
Dustin Johnson sinks a 40-foot eagle on No. 18 in Round 3 at THE NORTHERN TRUST
Only 45 minutes earlier he had been tied; now he was at 22-under 191 and leading by five. So, for now let’s table silly talk about his failure to go sub-60 and put on hold this idea of so little separation. Only two players – Harris English (66) and Scottie Scheffler (67) – are within five of the lead, and if you add in Louis Oosthuizen (68 – 198) it makes a mere seven within six.
To borrow a tired, old cliché, this is Johnson’s tournament to lose. That might prompt recalls of those well-chronicled times when Johnson has seemingly been in position to win, yet lost, but at some point this must resonate: If you’ve won 21 times and been victorious at least once in each of your 13 seasons on the PGA TOUR – check both those boxes next to Johnsons name – then you’ve got the right to take a lot of swagger to the first tee.
And Johnson, who could return to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, is saturated in swagger.
That his 60-64 -- 124 total for Rounds 2 and 3 mark the second straight week someone has posted such stunning numbers (Jim Herman won the Wyndham Championship last week by closing 61-63) – demonstrate that wild scoring is possible, Johnson appears cognizant of his Sunday assignment.
“I’m still going to have to go out and shoot a good score,” he said.
With Scheffler having put up a 59 in Round 2 and TPC Boston likely softened by a fast-moving storm that pounded the course for about 30 minutes Saturday, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some low, red numbers catch Johnson’s attention. But catching his lead is another challenge.
“Dustin is definitely one (player) you can expect to go out and shoot at least 4- or 5-under,” said Oosthuizen.
Likely, others share that sentiment, but if you are thinking Johnson needs motivation, he confirmed that he does. Already on the resume are 21 PGA TOUR wins, a healthy stretch as world No. 1, victories in a major (the 2016 U.S. Open), in the FedExCup Playoffs, and at least one triumph in each of the four World Golf Championships.
“(But) the FedExCup is something I have not won, and I would like to win that,” he said.
For others, if overtaking Johnson is an overwhelming challenge, there are important goals with big rewards. English and Scheffler, for instance, are projected to finish inside the Top 10 in FEC points, massive improvements from where they were a year ago.
When you dangle the benefits of being Top 30 and a qualifier for the TOUR Championship (Sept. 1-4) in front of players like Harry Higgs (66 – 199, tied for fifth, projected 34th in the FEC standings) and Tyrrell Hatton (63 – 201, joint ninth, projected 15th) you would discover that there is far more to chase in today’s final round at TPC Boston than the runaway train called Dustin Johnson.