LOS ANGELES: Two-time major champion Dustin Johnson nabbed his second LIV Golf title Sunday, edging Cameron Smith and Branden Grace in a playoff at Cedar Ridge Country Club near Tulsa, Oklahoma. Johnson birdied his final hole in regulation to get into the playoff then birdied the par-four 18th with a putt from off the green. South Africa’s Grace had putted first in the playoff, also from the fringe, narrowly missing.
Australia’s British Open champion Smith was closest to the hole, but his putt was never on track. Johnson scooped the $4 million first prize from the $25 million purse and joined Talor Gooch – winner of the previous two events – and Brooks Koepka as two-time winners in the Saudi-backed breakaway circuit’s first 14 events. The former world number one had claimed his first LIV title at Boston last year. Atop the leaderboard going into the third and final round, Johnson shook off triple-bogey on the 10th hole to card a three-under 67 to join Grace and Smith on 17-under.
“Obviously after I made seven on 10 – everything I could do wrong I did wrong on the hole – but to fight back and birdie 18 two times in a row, I’m really happy with that,” Johnson said. Smith, five back with nine to play, carded a bogey-free nine-under par 61 while Grace – who shot 61 in the first round – closed with a five-under 65. Grace helped South Africa’s Stinger team, headed by Louis Oosthuizen, to capture the team title with a 40-under par total.
The next LIV tournament is at Trump National in Washington in two weeks. But next week Johnson and Smith will be among 18 LIV rebels teeing it up in the second major of the season, the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in Rochester, New York.
LIV, bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, split the sport last year by luring away top stars from the US PGA Tour and the DP World Tour with lucrative contracts.
Day gets first win
In another development, Australian Jason Day clinched his first PGA Tour victory in over five years on Sunday, winning the Byron Nelson tournament with a nine-under-part 62 at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas. The 35-year-old had not won since the Wells Fargo Championship in May of 2018 but his birdie on the par-5final hole earned him a one stroke win over South Korea’s Kim Si-woo and American Austin Eckroat.
Day’s first ever win on the PGA Tour had come in the same tournament 13 years ago, albeit at a different venue in suburban Dallas. “It’s been a struggling few years, five years since our last win. The way I played today was really special. I’m very pleased and happy with how things have progressed over the last couple of years – 1,835 days to be exact,” he said. Day finished 23-under for the week as he ended a run of 105 starts without a win. Day said battling against a back injury had hampered his form but that his determination had helped him get back to his best.
“Just non-stop grinding and non-stop wanting to improve and to try and get better. A lot of injuries with my back… just trying to get through those three years, just trying to get through a tournament was difficult,” he said. “So, to be on the other side of it, to be healthy…really winning again. It’s so good to be on the other side,” he said. Day found his momentum with three straight bridies from the third hole onwards and the highlight of his round was chipping in from 37 feet for a birdie on the par-4 12th.
With Kim having taken a share of the lead, one hole in front of him, with a birdie on the 18th, Day knew that a par would only be enough for a playoff with the Korean. The Australian rose to the challenge with a superb 80-yard approach shot on the final hole landing two feet from the hole for a simple birdie and the win. Eckroat, in the final group, was left needing an eagle to force a playoff with Day, but his approach went over the back of the green and he had to settle for birdie and a round of 65. — AFP
Scheffler falls short
“Everything was solid, and I really felt like I played well enough to win. It’s just hard to beat a guy that goes out and shoots 9-under,” said the 24-year-old. Pan Cheng Tsung of Taiwan matched Day’s final round with a superb, career-low 62 to finish in fourth place on 21-under. He finished his round in superb style – driving the green on the 305-yard par-4 14th and sinking a 24 footer for eagle and then he made another eagle on the 18th brought him within a shot of Day. After his disappointing third round 71, world number two Scottie Scheffler had threatened, reaching the turn with four birdies, but he had to settle for a share of fifth place after missing a simple birdie putt on the last. — AFP