Dustin Johnson makes PGA Championship exciting with a thrilling chase

A fighting 69 by Dustin Johnson under swirling winds and a late slip up by Brooks Koepka set up a thrilling finish to the PGA Championship

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Dustin Johnson - PGA - Getty

PGA TOUR, 20 May 2019: They said it was over. It wasn’t.

In swirling winds that gave many players fits, Dustin Johnson went 3 under through 15 holes to close the gap as he chased front-runner Brooks Koepka.

Then he got some help as Koepka bogeyed four straight from holes 11-14. Just like that, a lead that was seven shots for much of the weekend had shrunk to just one.

“It was the most wind we’ve had all week,” said Johnson (69, 6 under, solo second), who was vying for his second major title. “I knew if I could get off to a good start, which I did, you know, that I could maybe put a little bit of pressure on him, and you know, I did that, too.”

The rowdy New York crowd, suddenly alert to a fight to the finish, chanted “DJ! DJ! DJ!” while others marveled at how quickly a coronation had turned into something else entirely.

Alas, almost as soon as Johnson got close, he fell back. The problems started when he hit a 5-iron into a stiff wind on 16, thinking he might not have enough club to cover the 194 yards to the pin. “The wind was just really eating the ball up when you’re hitting it into it,” he said.

As it turned out, he did have enough club, and then some. His ball went over the green, and while he chipped up to around 9 feet, he missed the putt. Then he bogeyed 17, too.

“With this golf course, and this amount of wind, it’s very, very difficult,” Johnson said.

Xander Schauffele, playing in the fourth to last group, bogeyed the last five holes for 76 (6 over, T16). Jazz Janewattananond, a 23-year-old Presidents Cup hopeful from Thailand, shot 77 for a T14 finish. Rickie Fowler shot 77, Tommy Fleetwood 78, Tony Finau 79. 

Johnson’s struggles over the last three holes meant that Koepka, playing two groups behind him, had the cushion he needed to play the last four holes in 1 over and become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2007 to successfully defend a PGA Championship title.

“Just the last three holes is what got me,” said Johnson, who was trying for his 21st PGA TOUR win. “Walking off 15 green, well, really, standing on 16 fairway, I’m at 8-under, and hit two really good shots there on 16, and I still don’t know how my ball went over the green there.”

On the bright side, Johnson was the only player to shoot under par for all four rounds, and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and 20th in Strokes Gained: Putting (+2.991). He is projected to move from sixth to fifth in the FedExCup. (Koepka moved to second.)

And Johnson, who won the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship earlier this year, is looking forward to the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where he has had success.

“I really, really played well tee-to-green,” he said of the PGA at Bethpage.

If there was a flaw in his game, he added, it was his failure to make putts over the first three days. “I hit the ball plenty good enough to have been tied with Brooks going into Sunday,” he said. But at seven shots behind to begin the final round, he was realistic about his chances.

And the fans?

“They were pulling for me,” Johnson said with a smile. “They were great. It was a lot of fun. You know, it’s why we play golf, is to be in these kinds of situations. And you know, for me, yeah, I had a great time out there today, even in these tough conditions. I gave it a good shot.”

 

Republished from PGA TOUR website