Only one World Golf Championship had eluded Dustin Johnson to this point in his career, but he erased that omission in his CV with a 1-up victory over a gallant Jon Rahm to claim the WGC–Dell Technologies Match Play in Texas.
Johnson is the first player to pull off the ‘minor’ slam of all four WGC events, a feat even Tiger Woods with 18 total WGC wins could not manage (although he did claim a World Cup alongside David Duval in 2000 when it was considered a World Golf Championship to somewhat achieve the feat at the time).
Johnson now has five in total and completed the set with a powerful yet disciplined display at Austin Country Club. He entered as the top seed and watched fellow high seeds Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth fail to pass through the group stage, while Jason Day withdrew six holes into his first match.
Johnson cruised through his group, defeating fellow Major winners Webb Simpson (5&3), Martin Kaymer (3&2) and Jimmy Walker (5&3) without requiring the 17th or 18th holes. The out-and-out bullying of the golf course and his opponents continued on the weekend when he ousted Zach Johnson, 5&4, in the round of 16, Alex Noren, 3&2, in the quarter-final then a tenacious Hideto Tanihara in the semi-final, 1 up.
Rahm, the 21st seed, started the championship match after a similar string of convincing victories but began the final like he had somewhere else to be. Three missed short putts handed Johnson an early 3-up advantage, a lead that grew to five after eight holes before the gifted Spaniard found his range. Rahm won the ninth, 10th and 13th holes (losing the 12th in between) before claiming the 15th and 16th with birdies to trim Johnson’s lead to a single hole.
It remained that way until the 18th where Rahm rocketed his drive at the par 4 over the green. A meek pitch shot was his undoing, however, as the pair matched pars to give Johnson his third title in a row, a run that began with the Genesis Open and WGC–Mexico Championship.
Across his seven matches in Austin, Johnson played 112 holes and never trailed after any of them. There can be no arguments as to who is the best player in the game right now.
“I was trying to win every hole out there,” Johnson said, before sounding an ominous warning for the rest of the Masters field next week. “I still feel like I’m not playing my best golf … If I’m playing my best, I can play against anyone, anytime.”
Bill Haas defeated Tanihara, 2&1, to seal the consolation match. After Day’s withdrawal and Adam Scott’s non-start, Marc Leishman was the lone Australian in the field. He won a three-man playoff to progress beyond the group stage before losing his round of 16 encounter to Phil Mickelson, 4&3.
* Five birdies in a row to kick-off the final round then four more in the closing six holes clinched the Puerto Rico Open for D.A. Points, this third US PGA Tour victory.
The alternate-field tournament option this week, the Puerto Rico Open was ripe for a veteran player to bob up and restore their exemption on the circuit, and Points fit the bill perfectly. His 66 to reach 20-under beat the eclectic trio of Retief Goosen (64), Bryson DeChambeau (67) and Bill Lunde (68) by two strokes. It was Points’ first win since the Shell Houston Open four years ago and one that gives the 40-year-old a new lease on tour life after losing his playing card a year ago.
It was a final round of three parts for Points. His five straight birdies to begin at Coco Beach Golf & Country Club were followed by three bogeys in the next five holes before red numbers at the 13th, 14th, 16th and 18th holes closed the door on his pursuers.
“I was just really proud of myself for finding some way – hitting about as low as I’ve ever been golf-wise and finding my [way] out – and then to be able to hang in there and win today is something that I wasn’t sure if I had in me,” Points said. “And I’m really proud of myself.
“Golf is like that, right? You have highs and lows and rarely do you just play every hole perfect. To bounce back after kind of a rough stretch there, I’m really proud.”
Best among the Australians was Cameron Percy at 13-under in a tie for 24th place.
* South Korean Mirim Lee snapped a three-year winless drought with a timely six-stroke victory at the LPGA Tour’s Kia Classic, the last start before the first major of the year.
Lee bettered So Yeon Ryu and Austin Ernst to seal a third career LPGA title against one of the strongest non-major fields of the year. She made only four bogeys for the week and none on Sunday as her seven-birdie 65 propelled her to 20-under par in a dominant display at Aviara Golf Club in California.
Lee won twice in two months in 2014 but was yet to resurface on the winner’s podium until this week. Her previous 2017 results provided a clue, with three top-13 results from three starts. Next week’s ANA Inspiration falls at the perfect juncture in the calendar for the 26-year-old.
Sarah Jane Smith continued her rise in the LPGA ranks with a tie for 21st place as the leading Australian. Su Oh shared 35th place, while Minjee Lee and Karrie Webb missed the cut.