CARMEL, Ind. (AP) — Dustin Johnson walked down a corridor of fans, trying to touch the dozens of outstretched hands on both sides until he extended both arms into a massive wing span to accommodate as many as he could. It seemed everyone wanted a piece of him at Crooked Stick.
Just as long as they didn’t have to play against him.
The BMW Championship might have been his most complete performance of what already has been a big year. Johnson was powerful as ever off the tee, shaping shots in both directions. His new putter helped him get the ball started on the right line and he was pouring them in.
He led the field in driving. He was second in putting.
How do you beat that?
Paul Casey sure didn’t have an answer.
“That was something special the last two days,” said Casey, who shot 68-67 on the weekend and didn’t make up any ground. “I did everything I could.”
Johnson was playing at such a high level that when Casey holed a 25-foot eagle putt on the 15th hole to get within one shot, he knew Johnson was going to make his eagle putt from 18 feet to match him. And he did.
When it was over, Johnson had a 5-under 67, a three-shot victory, the No. 1 seed in the FedEx Cup and no time to really reflect on what kind of year he is having. It was his third victory in his last eight starts dating to the U.S. Open at Oakmont for that breakthrough major. In 22 starts this season, he has 14 finishes in the top 10.
He was asked to describe a summer in which he has won a major (U.S. Open), World Golf Championship (Bridgestone Invitational) and a FedEx Cup playoff event (BMW Championship). Tiger Woods in 2007 was the last player to do that.
“It’s pretty good,” Johnson said.
His peers on the PGA Tour will be asked to judge him in a few weeks when they receive their ballots for player of the year, and the 32-year-old Johnson might have sealed it with the way he won at Crooked Stick.
He tied Jason Day with his third victory this season, the difference being Johnson won a major. He went to the top of the money list at just over $9 million. He might have wrapped up the Vardon Trophy for the lowest adjusted scoring average, particularly when Day was made ineligible by withdrawing in the middle of the final round at Crooked Stick with back pain.
Is it a fair fight? Johnson smiled at the question.
“It’s golf,” he said. “It’s always a fair fight. Anything can happen. It doesn’t matter how good you’re playing, there’s always something that can happen. I would know. Something can happen. Believe me — whether you want it to or not, it can.”
He should know.
There was the 82 he shot in the final round at Pebble Beach when he had a three-shot lead in the 2010 U.S. Open. He was kept out of a playoff in the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in 2010 for grounding his club in sand on the final hole without realizing it was a bunker. At the U.S. Open last year at Chambers Bay, his ball for reasons unknown stayed up on a ridge, and his 12-foot eagle putt for the victory turning to a three-putt par to finish one shot behind Jordan Spieth.
Even as everything seemed to go wrong, Johnson kept winning. He has won at least one PGA Tour event every season since he went straight from Coastal Carolina to PGA Tour qualifying school to winning in 2008. He now has 12 victories on the PGA Tour over the last nine years, a total topped only by Tiger Woods.
Spieth spends plenty of time around Johnso-n, even though they would appear to be nothing alike. They play together in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. They were partners in the Presidents Cup, and likely will be again in the Ryder Cup at the end of the month.
“He thinks simply, which helps in his golf game,” Spieth said. “He has a lot of confidence in what he’s doing. Bad stuff doesn’t seem to bother him. You couldn’t ever get under his skin, because DJ would just laugh it off.”
Johnson remains No. 2 in the world behind Day, and he likely will not make up any more ground the rest of the year because he’ll only play a couple more events.
“I’ve still got to go out and play some really good golf,” Johnson said. “I don’t think about, ‘Oh, I need to get to No. 1.’ I’ve just got to go out and just keep winning and keep having a chance to win on Sunday. That’s the goal for me. Just focus on that.”