Johnson finally first at Riviera
After a series of near-misses at Hogan's Alley, DJ cruised to the title Sunday
February 19, 2017
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Dustin Johnson cruises to victory at the Genesis OpenDustin Johnson carded an even-par final round and won the Genesis Open by five strokes.
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – Notes and observations from Sunday’s marathon third and fourth rounds of the Genesis Open, where Dustin Johnson claimed his 13th PGA TOUR title and moved to world No. 1. For more coverage, click here for the Daily Wrap-up.
DUSTIN FINALLY DOES IT
It was a case of 10th time lucky for Dustin Johnson when it comes to Riviera Country Club.
To state the new world No. 1 was trending towards victory on the historic venue is an extreme understatement given he had six top-10 finishes from his prior nine starts.
The list of Johnson’s top-10 finishes at the Genesis Open now reads:
1st / 2017
4th / 2016
P2 / 2015
2nd / 2014
T4 / 2012
T3 / 2010
T10 / 2009.
“To finally get a win at the Genesis Open feels good because I've finished second here a couple times, lost in a playoff, felt like I should have won a couple other times,” Johnson said.
“It's definitely nice to win on a golf course that I really enjoy playing and a golf tournament I really enjoy playing.”
Johnson was quick to give praise to his driver after switching back to the TaylorMade M1 for the week. He has been using an M2 so far this season.
“It was brand new and I really drove it very well. I think that was the big key for me this week,” Johnson confirmed after ranking first in driving distance over each of the four rounds.
“I drove it really well, so I never was really in trouble. I didn't really make any bogeys, I made one bogey through I think, I can't count, 60‑something holes.”
On a marathon Sunday where he had to negotiate 36 holes after earlier weather delays Johnson opened with a sublime 64 and then hit 20-under after six holes of his final round.
He appeared destined to break Lanny Wadkins longstanding tournament record of the same score from 1985 before losing some gas.
“Next year, next year,” Johnson said ominously when made aware of the scoring record.
“I was trying to get it to 22. I didn't know anything about a scoring record but just I was trying to get to 22.
“Made a couple bogeys coming down the stretch, but those were more playing a little too safe maybe. I knew I had a big lead, so as long as I didn't make any drastic mistake, I was going to be just fine.”
Johnson moves to sixth in the FedExCup with the win and joins Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players to win at least one time in each of their first 10 seasons on TOUR.
ROSE’S THORNED THUMB
Justin Rose notched up his third top-4 finish in four starts on the west coast swing with a final-round 68, leaving the former U.S. Open winner in a tie for fourth.
After finishing 2nd to a runaway Justin Thomas at the Sony Open and T4 at the Farmers Insurance Open Rose added another great finish at Riviera to move to 14th in the FedExCup standings.
But the Englishman had a little cause for concern with some obvious discomfort with his thumb over the long Sunday session.
“It's a tendon really on the top side of my thumb that really only hurts on chip shots and pitch shots, so it was good motivation to try and hit as many greens as possible,” Rose said.
“Didn't hurt at all with the full swings. I think it's a little flare up, I have no idea why or how.
“Obviously a lot to take away from the west coast and be happy about and lots to improve as well. I don't really feel like I'm firing on all cylinders and to kind of be up near the top end of the leaderboard in a few tournaments has been has been good feedback.”
Rose will look too sharpen up his irons before heading to the World Golf Championships – Mexico Championship.
“I'm not comfortable with any iron shots coming into the green right now but driving the ball well, and feel like I'm making some good inroads on my putting,” Rose confirmed.
“Normally iron play's my bread and butter, so if I can get that going (I’ll be happy). It's always the way with this game, you figure something else out and another part of your game slips up.”
BELGIAN BOMBER BAGS BIG RESULT
The love affair between Thomas Pieters and Riviera Country Club continued this week as the Belgian surged with a final round 8-under 63 to finish T2 and all but wrap up Special Temporary Membership on the PGA TOUR.
With 245 non-member FedExCup points added to his kick bag the big-hitter is already on the march towards his goal with 306 points.
He requires just 13 more points to match the number earned by the player at No. 150 in last season’s FedExCup standings (319 by Greg Owen) to become eligible.
While he doesn’t have plans to join the PGA TOUR full time, he would love to split his time between the U.S. and the European Tours – much like players like Rory McIlroy do.
“I love playing in Europe. But If that gets close and I can maybe lock up my (PGA TOUR) card in the next three, four starts, then that will be good,” Pieters said.
“It's not going to change (my schedule) for this year probably. It will just make my schedule a little bit easier next year.
“I'd like to combine both of them. Ideally I want to play here until May and then go back to Europe and play the events I want to play.”
He will continue his quest next week at the Honda Classic as a sponsor invite and then at the World Golf Championships – Mexico Championship having secured a place in the field via his world ranking.
Riviera has long been kind to Pieters. The last time he played at the iconic course he took away an Individual NCAA national championship title.
Despite a marathon Sunday where players had to complete the final two rounds Pieters couldn’t get enough of the place.
“I love Riviera. It just suits my eye,” he said.
“You want to keep playing the course. I just want to go out there right now and play some more, it's so much fun to play.”
Thomas Pieters interview after Round 4 of Genesis Open
RIVIERA BESTS DAY AGAIN
Jason Day hoped to turn his fortunes around at Riviera Country Club after some poor results in the past but it wasn’t to be for the Australian who languished in a tie for 64th and saw Dustin Johnson take away his world No. 1 status.
Playing for the first time since 2012, when he was a career-best T62 at the iconic course, Day battled the tough side of the draw and a wayward driver.
He hit just 22 of 56 fairways for the week to rank last of the 71 players to make the cut.
“I've just got to keep trying to improve each and every week,” Day said. “I think my chipping and putting are finally coming along. The hitting will come, and if I can get that, I'll obviously get back to winning form.”
Day was philosophical about losing his spot at the top of the OWGR after 47 consecutive weeks. After spending a lot of his career focused on getting to the top he now has narrowed the attention towards winning again.
“If you do that, then it takes care of everything. You don't have to worry about even looking at the rankings anymore,” he said.
“I had a good little run there and obviously, all positive stuff. So, I'm glad I had that little run. I know exactly what I need to do going into the future and hopefully I can take better steps trying to hold that position once I get back.”
Day will get the chance to retake top spot in two weeks at the World Golf Championships – Mexico Championship.
BRYAN EARNS CAREER-BEST RESULT
It was a good day out for Dutch Fork High School alumni. While Dustin Johnson claimed the victory at the Genesis Open former trick-shot artist Wesley Bryan notched up the best finish of his short PGA TOUR career with the help of a sublime 63 in the third round.
Bryan faded with a fourth round 72, the only player in the top 21 to shoot over par in the final round, but still managed to finish in a tie for fourth.
Despite the big result sending him up 66 spots to 88th in the FedExCup Bryan refused to get ahead of himself, but he did admit his 63 was one of the best rounds of his career.
“I didn't really get under the gun coming down the stretch with a chance to win like I wanted to, so just keep building on some of the positives and hopefully knock one out next week,” he said.
“This is a major championship golf course and the greens, while they weren't super firm, they're really tricky and it's definitely up there on one of my best rounds ever.”
The 26-year-old is six years younger than Johnson but still remembers the new world No. 1 from their younger days in South Carolina.
“We grew up playing golf when we were just little pups,” Bryan recalled. He's a good bit older, but his little brother Austin - we played a lot of junior golf. They were a lot of fun growing up.”
“Honestly, I'm surprised it took so long for him to get to No. 1 in the world. He's got all the talent that you could ever want in a golfer.
“He was better than everybody else at a really young age and he always hit the ball a lot farther than everybody else. And for as long as he hits it, he has such great hands around the green.
“That was probably the most surprising thing that stuck out to me is usually the guys that hit it really far, they don't have that touch around the greens that you see on some of the shorter hitters, but he's got the full deal.”
ODDS AND ENDS
• Scott Brown struggled with a rib injury in the fall but the 2013 Puerto Rico Open champion has been slowly building towards full fitness.
With his health in check he mustered his best result since his win and first top 10 since last season’s Puerto Rico Open with a 69-67 finish to be T2 with Thomas Pieters.
Brown has played every event, and made every cut, since the Sony Open but only managed a best result of T41 prior to this week at the Genesis Open.
“I'm not one of those guys that can take a few weeks off and come back and play a good tournament… which is why I played so much early,” Brown said.
“I kind of just feel my way into the season. Typically, I see better results the longer into a stretch I get.
“The rib is better. It's something that I battled a couple times in my career and it just takes about eight weeks or so and it heals. It's very aggravating.”
• Local boy and Pepperdine University amateur golfer Sahith Theegala posted scores of 67-73-71-71 to finish T49.
The 19-year-old had the pleasure of playing with Phil Mickelson over the final 36 holes and couldn’t resist asking for a photograph after the round.
“I was just admiring Phil. The experience of playing with Phil – I will never forget it obviously,” Theegala said.
“He does not play like a 46-year-old.”
Mickelson ensured the galleries were big for the teenager but he had his own throng of supporters. At least 40 friends and family were very vocal in his favor.
The Pepperdine Women’s team even had large cutouts of his head on sticks in a show of great support.
Theegala won the Collegiate Showcase at Riviera on Monday of tournament week to earn a spot into the field and heads straight to Palm Springs to play in a college event on Monday.
“I’m pumped for it,” he grinned when asked about his place in The Prestige.
Despite a long history of success – he was a junior world champion at ages 6, 8 and 10, and at 16 won the L.A. City Championship by eight shots and reached the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur last year – he intends to earn his degree before thinking about turning pro.
He’s excited for the 2017 U.S. Amateur which will be played at Riviera.
“That’s not even a question for me honestly. I am going to finish and get my degree at Pepperdine,” he said.
“But this week- it gives me unbelievable confidence. Playing Riv at tournament conditions is going to be something very few other people can say they’ve had.”