Johnson survives Stricker challenge
KAPALUA, HAWAII 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. 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.
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.
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.