Dustin Johnson went five-under par over a five-hole stretch on the back nine Sunday to pull away for an eight-shot victory at the Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii.
Johnson narrowly missed a birdie putt on the final hole to tie the largest margin of victory in tournament history, set by David Duval with a nine-shot victory over Mark O’Meara on the Plantation Course in 1999.
As it was, Johnson shot an 8-under round of 65 on Sunday to finish at 24-under for the tournament. He tied Ernie Els (2003) and Jordan Spieth (2016) for the second-largest margins of victory in the 34-player event reserved for winners on the PGA Tour in the previous calendar year.
Johnson began the day with a two-shot lead, but had expanded it to a six-shot cushion by the turn.
“I knew I was playing well,” Johnson said of his mentality entering the final round. “It’s a golf course that I’m really comfortable on and I felt like I’ve really been driving it well.
“I knew that as long as I could keep doing that, then I was going to play well.”
Spain’s Jon Rahm shot a 4-under 69 on Sunday to finish in second place and will rise one spot to a career-best No. 3 in the world golf rankings on Monday.
“If you’re starting your year here, it means you’re a champion,” Rahm said. “It’s a pretty great experience. … It will definitely be one of my plans (to come to Maui). Hopefully I can do it with an excuse.
“It’s no easy task to catch up to D.J. He’s an extremely consistent player. When he was five-under through 11, I think we were all looking forward to finishing in second place. At least, that was my battle for the final six holes.”
Brian Harman played in the final group with Johnson and shot a 1-under 72 to finish in third place. Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama and Pat Perez tied for fourth place at 14-under. With his finish, Perez took over the lead in the FedExCup standings from Patton Kizzire, who finished in a tie for 15th at 9-under.
Johnson has now joined Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players since 1960 with at least one victory in 11 consecutive years after turning pro. The only other players with 11 consecutive years with at least one victory in Tour history are Arnold Palmer (17), Biller Casper (16), Lee Trevino (14), Walter Hagen (12), and Sam Snead, Harry Cooper and Leo Diegel with 11 each.
Johnson now has 17 career victories on the PGA Tour.
With the victory, Johnson became the first player since Hal Sutton in 1983 to lose a six-shot lead after 54 holes and then win his next start. Johnson lost a six-shot lead in his previous start at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October, finishing second to Justin Rose.
“I knew that after China, where I struggled a little bit on Sunday, I didn’t want that to happen again,” Johnson said. “Even when I made the turn, I think I was at 20-under, I told myself my goal was to get it to 25. I just kinda kept the pedal down making the turn and played really well on the back side, too.”
–Derek Harper, Field Level Media