Johnston beats the hurricane and the fieldEDISON, New Jersey - The way Dustin Johnson began the final round of The Barclays, he figured the only thing that could keep him from winning was the rain.
Needing a good start, he opened with back-to-back birdies. In a bunker for the first time all week, he holed the 85-foot shot for eagle on No. 4 to take the lead. Even a wild tee shot on the par-5 fifth landed in trampled grass with a clear shot at the green.
And then it started raining - hard.
The Barclays, already reduced to 54 holes because of Hurricane Irene, would have reverted to a 36-hole tournament if the rain arrived early and kept the third round Saturday from finishing, making Matt Kuchar the winner.
“The way I got started, I was hoping that we were going to keep on playing,” Johnson said.
The rain stopped. Johnson kept right on going. He shot 29 on the front nine for the second straight day and closed with a 6-under 65 to win the opening FedEx Cup playoff event by two shots over Kuchar.
Johnson didn’t take the lead for good until Kuchar, who won The Barclays a year ago on a different course, three-putted from long range just off the green on consecutive holes on the back nine to make bogeys. He closed with a 68.
“I had the two basic three-putts and for me, that seems just very uncharacteristic,” Kuchar said. “I felt like I was just giving shots away.”
Johnson, who moved to No. 4 in the world, finished at 19-under 194 for his first win of the year and fifth of his career. He became the first player since Tiger Woods to go straight from college and win in each of his first four years on the PGA Tour.
He became the first player since Phil Mickelson to win two 54-hole events. Mickelson won the rain-shortened BellSouth Classic in 2000 and 2005. Johnson previously won the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in 2009 when the final round Sunday was washed out.
This one was different. Johnson knew Saturday was the final round, and he could only hope the round would be completed.
“We got lucky,” he said. “The weather held up for us long enough.”
Johnson wasn’t the only big winner on Saturday.
Ian Poulter birdied four of his last five holes for a 64, making him one of eight players who moved inside the top 100 in the FedEx Cup standings and advance to the second playoff event next week outside Boston.
William McGirt, the last of the 125 players who qualified for the playoffs, birdied the 17th hole that pushed him to No. 96. Padraig Harrington went from No. 124 to No. 80 with his tie for 13th. And then there was Ernie Els. He would have been eliminated had the tournament been cut short to 36 holes, but moved from 118th in the standings to No. 99.
“You’re trying to survive. It’s desperation,” Els said. “It’s sadistic. In a way it’s fun, if you’re into that [stuff].”
Johnson goes atop the FedEx Cup standings as the four-tournament race begins for the $10 million prize.