Sports and Scores
 

Dustin Johnson wins PGA Tour opener at Kapalua

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

By DOUG FERGUSON


Associated Press

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) Dustin Johnson disappeared into a small valley of bushes and high grass as he searched for another errant tee shot, this one costing him a double bogey and making the final round of the Tournament of Champions far more exciting than he needed it to be.

Undaunted by his mistakes or the thought of blowing a big lead, he blasted driver on the next hole despite the potential for more trouble. This one was pure, rolling back off the front of the green. Johnson chipped in from 50 feet for eagle and he was on his way.

Such a wild sequence - double bogey-eagle - is par for the course for this big-hitting American.

And it was only appropriate that this weird, windy start to the PGA Tour season would end Tuesday with such a wild ride. Johnson had a five-shot lead after seven holes. His lead was down to one shot with five holes to play. He wound up closing with a 5-under 68 for a four-shot victory over defending champion Steve Stricker.

"It was nowhere near ho-hum," Johnson said.

Nothing was.

The winners-only tournament didn't start until the fourth day because of gusts that topped 40 mph, forcing officials to shorten it to 54 holes. Once it finally got under way, it was over in 29 hours. Perhaps it was only fitting that a tournament delayed by a powerful wind was won by a guy who overpowered the Plantation Course at Kapalua.

"It definitely got close out there today," Johnson said. "Sometimes I hit a couple of bad drives, but I was always able to bounce back and do what I needed to do to stay out front."

He never felt truly in command until the final two holes, which are downhill. Paulina Gretzky, the daughter of hockey great Wayne Gretzky, was spotted with Johnson all week and watched from the gallery as he finished without drama at 16-under 203.

Johnson won for the sixth straight season since leaving college at Coastal Carolina, the longest streak since Tiger Woods won in 14 straight years. Only Phil Mickelson (nine) has a longer active streak of most consecutive years with a PGA Tour win.

"It looks like very little fear in him," Stricker said. "Because he'll hit one a little crooked, but he'll pull out that driver again and try it again. And he pulled it off, especially at 14. That was the deciding shot and chip for the tournament. Expect a lot of good things as he continues his career."

And don't expect it to ever be dull.

Johnson has all the tools for greatness, though his decision-making remains open to criticism. Instead of hitting an iron off the 13th tee - it's tough to get it close to the pin even with a short iron - he went with driver and invited all sorts of trouble. Remember, this is the guy who lost a three-shot lead in the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by rushing through wild shots in a round of 82. He lost a shot at another major by not realizing he was in a bunker on the last hole at Whistling Straits.

"I've done it enough times that it doesn't really bother me anymore," Johnson said. "I've been in this situation enough now and I've made enough double bogeys in my life. You know, it's just another hole, and you've got a lot more holes to go where you can make it up. Fortunately, today I made a double and then the next hole I made eagle. That definitely was the turning point of the day, because walking off 13, I was like, `Oh, no, here it goes again.'

"But I came right back, focused and hit two great shots."

Johnson also added a peculiar footnote to his record. He now has won the last three PGA Tour events reduced to 54 holes because of weather - rain at Pebble Beach in 2009, a hurricane at The Barclays in 2011 and gusts that topped 40 mph in Hawaii from a freak weather pattern that led to a bizarre season opener.

Stricker put up a good fight on one good leg. He has been feeling a shooting pain down his left side on every shot and limped his way around the most mountainous course on tour for 54 holes in two days. He closed with a 69.

"I knew it was going to be tough, but I gave it a run for a little while," Stricker said.

Brandt Snedeker went 5 under during a four-hole stretch on the front nine to get within one shot of the lead until he closed out the front nine with three straight bogeys. Snedeker had a 69 and finished alone in third, six shots behind. He moved to No. 8 in the world ranking, second only to Woods among Americans.

Masters champion Bubba Watson (71) and former PGA champion Keegan Bradley (70) were another shot back.

Johnson overcame the first threat from Snedeker with back-to-back birdies, and just like that, he was ahead by five and looked unbeatable.

His tee shot on the par-5 ninth sailed right into a patch of knee-high grass and short bushes, and Johnson never found it. Without showing any fear, he stepped up and smashed another driver dead into the wind, and then reached the green in two to salvage a two-putt bogey. He nearly drove the 12th green downwind for a birdie and a three-shot lead over Stricker, and that's when the fun began.

Johnson hit driver on the 13th and pulled it enough to land into a bunker and tumble into a native area of high grass, trees and plenty more.

"We found a shoe, some sunglasses, about five or six other balls," said Stricker, who joined in the search. "There might have been a guy living up in the tree."

Johnson found the ball, but it took two swings to get it back in play, and he had to two-putt from about 50 feet just to escape with double bogey. He thought his lead was gone as he watched Stricker, so smooth with a putter in hand, stand over his 20-foot birdie putt. It turned away at the last second.

With trouble to the right on the 14th, Johnson was predictable as ever. He pulled driver.

"He hit a couple of wayward drives and opened the door for me a little bit, and then he stepped up there with a driver again (on 14), and I'm like, `OK.' But then he piped it, and chips it in," Stricker said with a smile. "Most guys would have been pulling out an iron or some utility club. It's amazing that he even did that, to tell you the truth."

How good can Johnson be?

"I still don't think I've lived up to my potential," Johnson said. "I played really well, but still made some mistakes. But you're always going to make some mistakes. Just limiting those will definitely help, and then for me, just making some better decisions.

"If I keep playing golf like I'm playing right now, then obviously there is no limit."

Updated January 8, 2013

? © 2015 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

Audio On Demand

Dale and Holley: Kevin Ha…

Dale and Holley: Kevin Harlan previews the Super Bowl

The voice of the Super Bowl Kevin Harlan joins the show to preview the Super Bowl and talk about some the Patriots games he has called.

Dale and Holley: Tom E Curran previews Super Bowl

Tom E Curran joins the show on Radio Row to preview the Super Bowl and talk about the fraud Roger Goodell.

Dale and Holley: Michael Irvin previews the Super Bowl

The playmaker Michael Irvin joins the show on Radio Row to talk about how special it is for a team to stay on top of the mountain.

We Love Anthony Daivs - N…

We Love Anthony Daivs - NBA Mid-Season Awards

Ben and Sam discuss ways to improve the NBA All-Star weekend, hand out of hardware, and give their Finals predictions

Jackie MacMullen, ESPN Boston, talks about the Rondo trade 12-19-14

Jackie MacMullen, ESPN Boston, talks with MFB about Rondo being traded to the Dallas Mavericks, and how this will have an effect on the Celtics rebuild process

We Hate Dwayne Wade - Marcus Smart injury 11-12-14

How have the Celtics looked after a couple weeks? Could they be a playoff team? These questions and more...

John Farrell with Mut and…

John Farrell with Mut and Bradford, 1-24-15

The Red Sox have taken over Foxwoods and Red Sox Manager John Farrell sat down with Mut and Bradford to talk about the roster and how the 2015 season is looking.

Joe Kelly and Pablo Sandoval make predictions for 2015, 1-24-15

Red Sox pitcher Joe Kelly and 3B Pablo Sandoval sat down with Mut and Bradford. Joe Kelly had a few interesting proclamations. First he said that 95% of pitchers use some sort of grip enhancer, and then he said he was going to win the Cy Young. Pablo leaned over and promised 10 HR's, explaining to Joe that the trick is to set the bar low.

Hot Stove Show 01-15-15

Mut and Rob are in on the Hot Stove Show this week and they're taking calls and talking about the Red Sox pitching as we are 5 weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training.

Pierre McGuire discusses …

Pierre McGuire discusses Rule-Breaking in the NHL 1-22-15

Pierre McGuire talks about ways hockey players skirt the rules in the NHL and the development of Dougie Hamilton.

Pierre McGuire, NBC Sports: "Bruins are an unbelievably team to play against" 1-15-15

Pierre McGuire joins Lou, Christian and Tim to discuss the resurgent Bruins, the emergence of David Pastrnak, and former Boston College stand-out Johnny Gaudreau looking to trademark the name 'Johnny Hockey.'

Jack Edwards with Dale and Holley

We get our state of the B report from NESN's Jack Edwards, right in the midst of a 4 game winning streak and hot return for David Pastrnak.

D&C's Super Bowl Coverage…

D&C's Super Bowl Coverage Montage 1-30-15

Wrapping up the show's week on radio row.

Mad Dog Russo chats with Gerry and Kirk 1-30-15

Show favorite Mad Dog Russo joins the guys to look at Sunday's game and the response he has seen to deflategate.

Bob Kravitz checks in on deflategate 1-30-15

Kravitz calls in to put a wrap on the deflategate this week's coverage. He details some of the twitter attacks he has received from Patriots fans.

Super Bowl Predictions fr…

Super Bowl Predictions from Radio Row 1-30-15

Christian ran around Radio Row getting predictions form anyone he could find, which included being Green-Flied by Warren Sapp

Merloni Investments, Super Bowl XLIX Edition 1-30-15

Local Wiseguy Louie Merloni gives us the lines for Super Bowl XLIX

Adam Schefter, ESPN, with all the news surrounding Super Bowl XLIX 1-30-15

Adam Schefter, ESPN, joins Lou, Christian and Tim to talk about all the news surrounding Super Bowl XLIX

Four at Four: Super Bowl …

Four at Four: Super Bowl Prop Bets

We help you gamblers out there by breaking down some Super Bowl Prop Bets.

Kevin Harlan, the radio voice of the Super Bowl, joins us

Kevin Harlan talks about some of his famous calls from Patriots games and previews the Super Bowl live from Radio Row.

Tom E Curran previews the Super Bowl

Tom E Curran joins the show on Radio Row to preview the Super Bowl and give his prediction for the big game.

Roger Goodell didn't answ…

Roger Goodell didn't answer questions as much as raise more

Mikey, Mut and Lenny are talking about Roger Goodell's state of the game address and question and answer period from earl

The Eve of Super Bowl Eve

Mikey and Mut are gearing up for the Super Bowl on the final show before the Patriots take on the Seahawks.

Steve DeOssie joins Mike Mutnansky

DeOssie joins Mut from Arizona to talk about how big the hype has been for this year's Super Bowl in comparison to other Super Bowl games in the past and how Seattle's defense matches up against New England's offense.

WrestleCast - Royal Rumbl…

WrestleCast - Royal Rumble Preview Part 2

Chris and comedian Mike Mulloy recap the final Raw before the Rumble and preview the Rumble itself.

Unsportsmanlike Podcast - Are sports better in the stadium or on TV?

Would you rather watch important games in the stadium or on TV? Also we discuss our worst experiences at stadiums.

We Love Anthony Daivs - NBA Mid-Season Awards

Ben and Sam discuss ways to improve the NBA All-Star weekend, hand out some hardware, and give their Finals predictions.

Kirk's showdown with the …

Kirk's showdown with the competition 01-29-15

Gerry and Kirk breakdown Kirk's confrontation with the competition.

More from this show

ESPN Sport Science John B…

ESPN Sport Science John Brenkus Talks Deflate Gate 1-28-14

Dale and Michael talk to John Brenkus about the tests he did in relation to deflate gate and the conclusions he came to.

More from this show

Gregg Doyel thinks the Pa…

Gregg Doyel thinks the Patriots are comparable to the 1919 White Sox 1-29-15

Doyel knows the Patriots fixed the AFC title game and they now belong in the same sentence as the 1919 White Sox.

More from this show

Frank Caliendo brings his…

Frank Caliendo brings his impressions to radio row 1-29-15

Funny man Frank Caliendo sits in with Gerry and Kirk from Arizona. He talks about his process and voices some of his greatest hits.

More from this show

Bob Kravitz checks in on …

Bob Kravitz checks in on deflategate 1-30-15

Kravitz calls in to put a wrap on the deflategate this week's coverage. He details some of the twitter attacks he has received from Patriots fans.

More from this show

Weei Writers