The Northern Trust 2017
Round 4 - Dustin Johnson beats Jordan Spieth in a playoffAugust 27, 2017
In a FedEx Cup playoff opener that felt like a heavyweight bout, Dustin Johnson delivered back-to-back blows to beat Jordan Spieth in The Northern Trust.
One was a putt from 18 feet.
The other was a drive that traveled 341 yards.
Down to his last shot, Johnson watched his 18-foot par putt stay on the high side of the hole and thought for sure it would miss. He took two steps of hope to the right, and then pumped his fist in a rare show of emotion when it swirled around and dropped in the back side of the cup for a 4-under 66 to force a playoff.
Given new life, Johnson relied on his strength and powered a drive over the lake to the far edge of the fairway. It was the longest drive all week on the 18th hole, and it left him a 60-degree wedge to 4 feet for birdie and a victory he badly needed.
The No. 1 player in the golf finally looked the part again.
''It was fun to be in the hunt again and know that my game is going to hold up under pressure,'' Johnson said.
Spieth lost for the first time in six tries when leading by two shots or more, and there wasn't much he could do except take back that tee shot into the water on the par-3 sixth hole after building a five-shot lead. Johnson played bogey-free over the final 29 holes.
''I didn't lose the tournament,'' Spieth said after closing with a 69. ''He won it.''
It was great theater between Johnson and Spieth, good friends who now are No. 1 and No. 2 in the world.
''I thought that was a fun show,'' Spieth said. ''I was hoping it wasn't going to be that much fun.''
Johnson made up a five-shot deficit in five holes, and they battled along the back nine with big shots and big moments.
They were tied on the par-3 17th when both hit into a bunker, and Johnson blasted out to 4 feet with an easier shot and angle to the hole. Spieth had 18 feet for par and knocked it in, like he always seems to do.
On the closing hole, Johnson showed the kind of golf I.Q. that belies his simple outlook on life. After he sliced his drive up the hill and into a nasty lie in the rough, he chose to lay up instead of trying to hammer a shot to an elevated green.
But he made it pay off with a par, that got him into the playoff after Spieth lagged a 75-foot putt perfectly to get his par.
They finished at 13-under 267.
Johnson was angry with himself after his tee shot in regulation for not taking it over the water, even with a light wind in his face.
''Right after I hit my drive, I was like, 'What am I doing?'' Johnson said. He told his caddie, brother Austin Johnson, that if they got into a playoff, he wouldn't make the same mistake twice. It took the most clutch putt Johnson has made in his career, and he blasted his best drive of the week.
Spieth knew it was going to be tough when they returned to the tee and felt the wind switch in their favor.
''I was hoping he was not going to notice that,'' Spieth said.
Johnson won for the first time since he wrenched his back during a spill down the stairs that knocked him out of the Masters and derailed his dominance in golf. He had won three straight tournaments against strong fields until that injury.
''I feel like the game is finally back in form like it was before the Masters,'' Johnson said.
Of his 16 victories, this was the first time Johnson faced a must-make putt on the final hole, and he delivered a par putt that even Spieth thought was going to miss on the high side of the hole.
''But his body language was hanging in,'' Spieth said. ''I'm like, 'Does that really still have a chance?' And it came around and lipped it. My initial thought was, 'I just did that exact thing to him the hole before.'''
The Northern Trust never looked as though it would contain so much drama.
Spieth began with a three-shot lead and he stretched it to five shots with a 30-foot birdie putt on the fifth hole.
Five holes later, they were tied.
Spieth's tee shot on the next hole banged off the rock wall and into the water on the par-3 sixth, and he made double bogey. On the ninth hole, Spieth took three putts from just off the left side the green, and Johnson made a 7-foot birdie putt for another two-shot swing.
No one else really had a chance.
Jon Rahm (68) ran off three straight birdies early on the back and briefly was one shot behind, though he had stronger holes ahead of him and fell back. Jhonattan Vegas (65) was within two shots after playing the scoring holes. They tied for third, four shots behind.
Otherwise, it was a matter of who finished among the top 100 in the FedEx Cup to move on to the TPC Boston next week for the second playoff event.
Bubba Watson shot a 70 and tied for 10th, to become one of eight players to qualify for the second playoff event all 11 years of the FedEx Cup. David Lingmerth and Harold Varner also moved into the top 100. That marked the fewest players outside the top 100 to advance since 2007.
Johnson moved to the top of the list. Spieth is right behind. They will play together the opening two rounds next week in Boston.
Round 3 - Jordan Spieth pulls three clearAugust 26, 2017
Jordan Spieth delivered most of the excitement Saturday at The Northern Trust with three birdies in a four-hole stretch on the front nine to take the lead, and then three straight birdies on the back nine to pull away from a strong cast of contenders.
Now if he can just inject a little boredom into his life.
Spieth matched the low score of the tournament at Glen Oaks Club with a 6-under 64, giving him a three-shot lead over Dustin Johnson as he tries to embellish an already strong reputation as a closer.
Based on the last few months, however, his record only looks good on paper.
''It's easier to win from that position. You've got an advantage on the field,'' Spieth said. ''But look at my last lead - three shots, and that was gone by the fourth hole. Anything can happen on Sunday.''
He was referring to the British Open, where he lost a comfortable lead in the first hour, finally fell behind on the 13th hole and then put together one of the best finishing stretches in major championship history at Royal Birkdale to beat Matt Kuchar.
He could have just as easily been referring to The Travelers a month earlier, where he struggled so mightily with his putting that he had to save par from a bunker to get into a playoff, then won on the first extra hole by holing a bunker shot.
''I imagine it's not like guys that were chasing Tiger where you almost feel hopeless and you try and do all you can,'' Spieth said. ''Because I've shown that things can get a little off, and have to get back on track.''
He was on the right track on another glorious afternoon of sunshine on Long Island. It was the second straight day that Spieth filled his card with birdies on the easier back nine at Glen Oaks - a 30 on Friday, a 31 on Saturday.
Johnson, his regular partner at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, failed to take advantage until he stuffed his approach into 4 feet on the 18th hole for a birdie and a 67 to narrow the gap and get into the final group with Spieth.
Spieth was at 12-under 198, and his reputation - even for a 24-year-old in his fifth year on the PGA Tour - is as daunting as the size of his lead. Spieth has a 9-5 record with at least a share of the 54-hole lead, including nine of his last 10.
''Ten except for one hole,'' he said with a smile, referring to the quadruple bogey he made on the 12th hole at Augusta National that cost him the 2016 Masters.
Paul Casey, who seems to play his best golf this time of the year, and defending champion Patrick Reed each hat a 66 and were next in line at five shots back, along with Jon Rahm (67) and Kuchar (68).
Missing from the mix are Jhonattan Vegas and Rickie Fowler, who started the third round as part of the four-way tie for the lead that included Spieth and Johnson. Vegas shot a 72 to fall eight shots behind. Fowler, playing with Spieth, opened with five bogeys in six shots and fell 10 shots behind after a 74.
''A five-shot lead requires two things - a really good round from whoever is coming from behind and the leader to stumble a little bit,'' Rahm said. ''And Spieth is not known for being one to stumble.''
Spieth would love nothing more than a Sunday like Pebble Beach, where he had a six-shot lead and closed with two birdies, no bogeys and no excitement.
''I don't expect it, though,'' Spieth said.
He didn't have reason to believe he would have a three-shot lead when the third round began with so many players in the mix. Johnson took the early lead with a birdie from the bunker on the par-5 third hole, and then Spieth began the first of two big runs. He holed birdie putts of 20 feet, 12 feet and 25 feet over a four-hole stretch, and looked as though the lead would get even bigger when he settled over an 8-foot birdie chance on the ninth hole.
And then he three-putted with an aggressive stroke on a downhill putt. Spieth bounced back with a birdie on the 10th, and then after failing to birdie the lone par 5 on the back nine, he went back to work with the putter with a 10-foot birdie on No. 14, a 20-foot birdie on the par-3 15th and a shot into 4 feet on the 16th for three in a row.
Johnson stopped hitting it close and twice had to work hard not to lose ground.
At three shots behind, he still looms as a big threat as the No. 1 player in the world whose game is rounding back into the form that made him appear to be so unbeatable until his back injury before the Masters.
''Let's be honest here - I'd rather have a three-shot lead,'' Johnson said. ''But it's not that bad coming from three shots back, either, because that can change in one hole, really. But obviously, Jordan is playing really well, so he's going to be tough to beat tomorrow. ... If I can drive it well again tomorrow and maybe hole a couple putts, maybe some of his putting will rub off on me and I'll start holing them.''
Spieth will be going for his fourth victory of the year, one that would make him the front-runner for PGA Tour player of the year.
Round 2 - Stars top crowded leaderboardAugust 26, 2017
Two swings cost Dustin Johnson the lead. It wasn't long before Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler caught up to him in The Northern Trust, setting up a weekend of star power in the opening FedEx Cup playoff event.
Johnson, finally looking like the No. 1 player who looked unstoppable in the spring, appeared on the verge of building a big lead at Glen Oaks Club until consecutive tee shots wound up on the wrong holes and forced him to scramble just to escape with bogey.
Fowler made up a five-shot deficit in six holes playing alongside Johnson, making a 15-foot birdie on the last hole for a 66 to join Johnson and Jhonattan Vegas (65) atop the leaderboard. And then Spieth put together a stretch Friday afternoon reminiscent of his British Open victory, minus a shot from the driving range, in a 65.
Spieth began the back nine with five straight birdies, matching his longest birdie streak on the PGA Tour. It ended with a bogey on the par-3 15th when his tee shot nearly found the water, but then he answered with a 40-foot birdie putt up the slope on the 16th.
Even without his best year with his best club, Spieth has won three times and captured the third leg of the Grand Slam. But his putter doesn't leave him for long.
''Putter has been streaky for me this summer, which is better than just kind of not-so-great, which it was before that,'' he said. ''So I've been able to mentally use one or two good putts to make me feel like I'm putting awesome.
''I got on the good side of the streak on the back nine today.''
Spieth made pars from the bunkers on the last two holes to join the others at 6-under 134.
He wasn't alone in running off a string of birdies. Matt Kuchar looked as though he might miss the cut until his caddie encourage him to try to get back to even par. Kuchar ran off four straight birdies and kept right on rolling, ending his round of 64 with eight birdies on the last 10 holes.
Kuchar and two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson (68) were one shot out of the lead.
Watson is at No. 113 in the FedEx Cup, and only the top 100 after The Northern Trust advance to the next playoff event at the TPC Boston. Watson says he won't play the rest of the year once he is eliminated. A big finish this week could delay that another month, a nice problem to have.
Jon Rahm, who played with Johnson and Fowler, had a 68 and was two shots behind along with Justin Rose (68) and Russell Henley (72).
Seventy players made the cut at 2 over par. That included Geoff Ogilvy, who went bunker-to-bunker-to-bunker on his final hole and had to make a 4-foot putt for double bogey. If he had missed, then it would have let 11 players back into the tournament. Among those missing the cut were Hideki Matsuyama, the No. 1 seed going into the playoffs, who three-putted the last hole and missed by one.
The cut ended the season of 13 players, a group that included Presidents Cup captain Steve Stricker and former PGA champion Jimmy Walker.
Johnson looked so sharp early on that he didn't have a birdie putt longer than 12 feet over his first six holes, though he converted just two of them. He reached 8 under when he hammered a driver and a fairway metal to the back of the green on the 629-yard third hole, two-putting for birdie.
But his tee shot on No. 4 was inches away from the third fairway, and his next shot struck a tree. He had to get up-and-down from 50 feet right to save bogey. The next tee shot was so far left it was in the rough on the fourth hole. He clipped branches, hit a poor chip and had to two-putt from 80 feet for his bogey.
''But other than that, I felt like it was a really solid day,'' Johnson said. ''I'm really pleased with the way the golf game is right now and I'm looking forward to this weekend.''
Fowler, meanwhile stuffed it on No. 4 and rolled in an 8-footer on the par-3 sixth over water, and just like that they were tied.
''Pretty stress-free,'' Fowler said. ''I've been driving it well this week, which is key around here. You don't want to play out of the rough.''
Phil Mickelson limited his mistakes and made four birdies in a round of 68, which left him six shots behind but gave him two more rounds at Glen Oaks to post the kind of scores that would make him a viable pick for the Presidents Cup. Rory McIlroy chipped in for birdie on the tough par-3 second and shot 68. He was seven shots behind.
The focus was at the top with so many popular players contending - Spieth, Fowler, Johnson at the top.
''That's what tends to happen in the playoffs,'' Spieth said. ''As less guys make the next tournaments, you start to get players that are playing very well, and to no surprise, those guys are toward the top. ... Should be an exciting weekend.''
Round 1 - Dustin Johnson one off the leadAugust 25, 2017
Golf hasn't felt this easy to Dustin Johnson since he was making it hard for anyone to beat him.
Coming off a week in the Bahamas and switching back to his old putter to rely more on feel, Johnson ran off three birdies over his last six holes at Glen Oaks Club and finished with a 5-under 65 to trail Russell Henley by one shot after the opening round of The Northern Trust.
Johnson missed only two fairways and two greens Thursday afternoon, and he finished with a shot up the hill to 4 feet for one last birdie that gave him his lowest round since he won at Riviera in February to rise to No. 1 in the world.
''Today was much easier than it has been in the past,'' Johnson said. ''I've been saying it's close and I've seen signs of it. But today was the first day where I felt like all day I was really in control of the swing. Hit a lot of really good shots. Drove it well. Did everything really well. It's the first time in a long time I've done that.''
He specifically used as a reference the weeks leading into the Masters, when Johnson looked nearly unstoppable by winning three straight tournaments. And then he was stopped by a staircase in his rental home at the Masters, slipping in socks and wrenching his back. He had to withdraw from Augusta National the next day, and since then he has been trying to get over the back injury and get back his game.
The first of four FedEx Cup playoff events moved this year to Glen Oaks, a course no one in the field knows particularly well. It is spacious and immaculate, the contoured greens that can be difficult to negotiate outside of close range.
Henley brought a conservative strategy of aiming for the safe part of the green, and he converted eight birdies. Seven of them were from 12 feet or closer, a testament to how well he was playing. He also chipped in from 80 feet.
''I don't know what the key is, or the secret,'' Henley said. ''I just tried to hit the fairway, make sure I hit the green when I was in the fairway, and the greens are great and I rolled in a couple of putts.''
Scott Brown, Camilo Villegas and Chris Kirk were at 66, and it was an important start for Villegas and Kirk.
The top 100 in the FedEx Cup after this week advance to the second playoff event at the TPC Boston. Kirk is at No. 97, Villegas is one spot behind. It was even better for a few players who opened with a 67, such as Bubba Watson (No. 113), Martin Flores (No. 118) and Harold Varner III (No. 123).
Flores only got into the top 125 by finishing with an ace, a par and a birdie at the Wyndham Championship.
Phil Mickelson, meanwhile, needs to see a score much better than his 72, which featured two straight birdies at the end but also a pair of double bogeys. Mickelson has played in every Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup since 1994, and he is in danger of being left out of the Presidents Cup next month at Liberty National.
U.S. captain Steve Stricker has said he needs to see signs from the five-time major champion, and Mickelson knows that.
''I would love to be on that team, but I've got to bring something to the table,'' Mickelson said.
PGA champion Justin Thomas, still sluggish from a busy week of trying to deal with his new status as major champion, wasn't expecting much out of his game and dropped two shots early before he rallied for a 68. In his first start since his two-shot victory at Quail Hollow, Thomas was not introduced on the tee as the PGA champion.
''After the drive I hit, I'm kind of glad they didn't,'' he said.
He hit it on the toe of the driver, a duck-hook that he says would have gone about 130 yards. He was exaggerating. It went 221 yards after it clanged out of the trees and into the fairway, leaving him a 2-iron to the green when most players are hitting a wedge or short iron.
British Open champion Jordan Spieth had a 69, while Hideki Matsuyama, the No. 1 seed going into the PGA Tour's version of the postseason, didn't make a birdie and opened with a 74. Rory McIlroy made three bogeys on the back nine and shot 73.
Johnson switched to a TaylorMade Spider putter during the playoffs last year, and he stuck with that up until returning this week and going back to what he used when he won the U.S. Open last summer at Oakmont.
''I got a little bit more feel with the putter instead of the Spider I was using,'' he said. ''I was getting a little bit too mechanical and I was worrying about too many things when I was putting instead of just putting.''
He ran a long birdie putt some 15 feet by the hole at No. 2 and three-putted for bogey. After that, his speed was better and his game was sharp. The 65 was his best round since a 64 in the second round at Riviera.
|T20||USA||Harold Varner III||-2||-||67||70||71||70||278|
|T49||TPE||Cheng Tsung Pan||5||-||70||69||69||77||285|
|T54||USA||D. A. Points||6||-||72||66||74||74||286|
|T54||USA||J. J. Spaun||6||-||71||68||72||75||286|
|T62||USA||Charles Howell III||7||-||69||71||74||73||287|
|CUT||RSA||Tyrone van Aswegen||3||-||75||68||-||-||143|
|CUT||USA||J. J. Henry||4||-||72||72||-||-||144|
|CUT||USA||J. B. Holmes||5||-||69||76||-||-||145|
|CUT||ESP||Rafael Cabrera Bello||11||-||79||72||-||-||151|