Dustin Johnson outlasted the lightning and the field on Sunday to hold one for a one-stroke victory at the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn., picking up his 21st career win on the tour and joining some pretty elite company in the process.
Johnson, 36, closed with a 3-under 67 to finish at 19-under 261 and edge fellow American Kevin Streelman (who also shot a 67 on Sunday). After finishing tied for 17th last week at the RBC Heritage and missing the cut at the Charles Schwab Challenge, the former world No. 1 won for the first time since February of 2019 at the WGC-Mexico to give him at least one win on tour for 13 straight seasons.
“Winning 13 years straight on the tour is a pretty big accomplishment,” Johnson told reporters when asked after the tournament. “You know, they’re pretty close with what I’m most proud of. … Anytime you’re mentioned with those guys, with Tiger (Woods), Jack (Nicklaus), I think Arnie (Arnold Palmer), you’ve got to feel good about that because they’re the best that’s ever played this game. Anytime your name is mentioned in the same sentence with them, I’m very happy.”
According to the PGA, Nicklaus and Palmer hold the record for most consecutive seasons with at least one win on tour with 17, followed by Billy Casper (16), Lee Trevino and Woods (14), and Johnson.
Starting in the final pairing with 54-hole leader Brendon Todd, Johnson birdied five out of seven holes starting on No. 4 — with a bogey 5 on No. 7 — to take a two-stroke lead at 20-under par through 12 holes.
After bogeying the par-5 13th Johnson got the stroke back with a birdie on the par-4 14th. Then came perhaps the hole of the day.
Johnson sent his tee shot on the par-4 15th wide — way wide — left, but his ball plugged in the rough within a foot or two from the water. Taking off his shoes and socks and rolling up his pants, Johnson stood in the water to take his second shot — which came up short of the green and rolled back to the rough again. Johnson’s third shot may have been the shot of the tournament for him, a lofty chip that landed within a few feet of the hole to allow him to save par.
“I hit a 3-hybrid very poorly,” Johnson said of his tee shot. “I don’t know what was going on with my tee balls today.”
Difficult weather break
After that, however, inclement weather sent the remaining golfers back to the clubhouse. When they returned, Johnson immediately bogeyed 16 to leave him just one ahead of Streelman.
“Yeah, I mean, sitting there, obviously made a nice par save on 15, and so I felt good,” Johnson said. “I had the confidence. I was ready to finish out the golf tournament, and then obviously they blow the horn, so you get to go sit in the clubhouse for an hour.
“You know, just coming out, we had a few minutes to warm up, so it wasn’t like I was stiff or anything, but just caught my shot a little thin on 16. I knew I was not trying to hit it anywhere near that right bunker and I did.”
Despite the drama, Johnson parred 17 and 18 to hold on for the win.
Streelman’s scoring card remained clean throughout the day, as the 41-year-old posted three birdies and 15 pars. But after the tournament, the 2014 Travelers winner was left lamenting what could have been.
“That shot on 17, I just don’t how it didn’t come down that hill,” Streelman told reporters after the round of trying to catch a ridge with his approach and just missing. “Literally a foot left and it’s a kick-in and maybe we’d have a chance at a playoff, but Dustin is playing beautifully. He’s obviously tough to compete with when he’s on top of his game.”
“The way (Johnson) drove it on 18, he probably would have finished the deal anyway, but that being said, I knew I needed one more, and like I said, the one on 17 was the one I needed,” Streelman said when asked of what he thought when Johnson bogeyed 16. “That shot was so close to getting down the hill and being a kick-in. But hey, I did my best, and that’s all I can ask for.”
Gordon holds on for third
American Will Gordon and Canadian Mackenzie Hughes — who opened the tournament with a 60 on Thursday — both shot 67 Sunday and finished tied for third at 17 under. Kevin Na shot a 67 to finish fifth at 16 under.
As for Todd, after parring the first 11 holes he fell apart. After finding the greenside rough on a steep slope, he overshot the green to more rough, came up short and saw the ball roll back downhill, and ultimately needed six shots to make the green. His triple-bogey 7 was followed by bogeys on Nos. 15 and 18 as he posted a 5-over 75 to finish tied for 11th at 13 under.
Phil Mickelson, who led after 36 holes after recently turning 50, posted his second straight 71 and finished tied for 24th at 11 under. World No. 1 Rory McIlroy shot a 67 Sunday to finish in the group with Todd at 11 under.
The low round of the day was shared by Americans Doc Redman and Lucas Glover, who each shot 63. Redman finished at 13 under, Glover at 12 under.
–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)