Johnson tops at Kapalua
KAPALUA, Hawaii—Zach Johnson is taking his place among the big boys in golf with two of the shortest clubs in his bag.
On a Plantation Course at Kapalua that should be paradise for the game’s longest hitters, Johnson chipped in for his opening birdie and then hit four exquisite wedge shots on the back nine yesterday to rally from two shots behind, close with a seven-under 66, and win the Tournament of Champions.
That was pivotal on the back nine, where five players had a chance to win. Johnson ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch, all of them with a wedge in his hand, none of the shots particularly easy.
He wound up with a one-shot win over Jordan Spieth—the perfect way to start a new year.
Especially after he ended the old one with a win.
Johnson didn’t need any heroics this time, not like last month in California in the World Challenge when he holed a shot from the drop zone—with a wedge—on the final hole and then wound up beating Tiger Woods in a playoff.
Kapalua was mainly about chipping and putting, and Johnson is among the best.
“Getting the ball in the fairway and giving my wedges a chance was crucial,” he stressed.
“It’s about plotting my way; putting myself in a yardage spot that I know is going to give me an opportunity.”
Johnson, starting his 11th season on the PGA Tour, won for the 11th time in his career. Since his rookie season in 2004, only Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Vijay Singh have won more on the PGA Tour.
It also was Johnson’s third win in his last six starts—dating to the BMW Championship outside Chicago in September that qualified him for this winners-only tournament in Kapalua.
Spieth had a one-shot lead going into the back nine and thought only of making three birdies. He started way too late—losing three good birdie chances in the soft, middle portion of the back nine and then finishing with two birdies that only gave him a runner-up finish.
He closed with a 70.
Webb Simpson, tied with Spieth and defending champ Dustin Johnson to start the final round, never caught up and closed with a 70.
Simpson wound up tied for third with Kevin Streelman, who had a 67.
Dustin Johnson, meanwhile, made three bogeys before making his first birdie.
He shot 73 to tie for sixth.