It was an exciting week of low scores in Norton, Massachusetts, where TPC Boston hosted the 2020 Northern Trust and the first leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Early in the week, 24-year-old rookie Scottie Scheffler shook up the golfing world after carding a 59, becoming just the 12th man to do so since Al Geiberger first broke through the 60-barrier in 1977. Additionally, there were ample storylines as players on the FedEx Cup bubble vied to move into the top 70 of the standings and survive to the second leg of the playoffs.
However, it is clear that Dustin Johnson far and away provided the ultimate highlight of the week which included what is probably the only disappointing round of 60 in PGA Tour history. It was in this second round where Johnson blazed to 11 under in 11 holes only to then card 7 consecutive pars and miss what would have been the second sub-60 round of the tournament. Despite missing the opportunity to shoot his first ever round in the 50s or make history and surpass Jim Furyk’s PGA Tour low of 58, Johnson remarked post-round that “It was a good score, I’m happy with it,” summing it up by saying “it is what it is.”
It was a good score, I’m happy with it ... It is what it is. - Dustin Johnson on not breaking 60
Perhaps it was this carefree attitude that enabled him to overcome the challenge of following up a great round with another great round as he posted a 7 under 64 on Saturday which gave him a five-shot lead going into the final round. Although D.J. had surrendered significant 54-hole leads in the past, most recently at the 2017 WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai where he lost a six-shot lead and fell runner-up to Justin Rose, it seemed inevitable that he would be holding the trophy Sunday evening. He didn’t disappoint.
Rather than simply trying to maintain his lead, Johnson continued his strong play and was 7 under after 12 holes, almost encouraging another 59-watch on the par-71 track. Instead, he parred holes 13 through 16 and missed his tee shot into the fescue on the 17th before play was stopped with thunder and lightning in the area. When play resumed roughly an hour and 15 minutes later, Johnson managed to par the penultimate hole and walked to 18 sitting at 29 under par and with a 9-shot lead over his playing partner Harris English. At this point, with the Northern Trust solely in his hands, he was essentially only chasing history – trying to join Ernie Els, and Jordan Spieth as the only players to finish 30 or more under par in a 72-hole event (Steve Stricker was also 33 under par after 72 holes at the 2009 Bob Hope Classic which was a 90-hole event).
As the rain continued to fall, Johnson played his second shot just short of the green at the closing par five. From here, he putted to three-feet range, and his putter, which was very solid throughout the week, stroked the birdie putt. Furthermore, with English’s closing bogey, Johnson captured an eleven-shot victory, the first double-digit victory on the PGA Tour since Jordan Spieth won the Hero World Challenge by 10 shots in 2014.
Since the PGA Tour restart, Dustin Johnson’s performance has been interesting. After missing the cut at the first event back, he recorded a T-17 finish at the RBC Heritage which he followed up with a win the next week at the Travelers Championship. After skipping the tour’s next three events, he shot a pair of 80s in route to missing the cut at the Memorial. The following week, he shot 78 in the first of the 3M Open before withdrawing from the event. It is interesting to note that both the Memorial and the 3M Open were held at the same golf course, Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio. Amidst the questions of his recent subpar play, D.J. finished T-12 at WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational. And in his last start prior to this week, Johnson recorded his fifth runner-up finish in a major at the PGA Championship after holding the 54-hole lead.
This win at the Northern Trust marks Johnson’s 22nd PGA Tour win. Moreover, he moved past Justin Thomas and into the number one spot in the FedEx Cup standings which will be very important come the Tour Championship at Eastlake. He also reclaimed the number one position in the World Golf Rankings, knocking Jon Rahm from the top. The title for golf’s number one player has experienced considerable shift in ownership recently, having changed four times now in the span of a month.
Clearly, Dustin Johnson is at the top of the game. Can he continue throughout the playoffs? It’s setting up for a very exciting tournament at next week’s BMW Championship at Olympia Fields where the playoffs continue.