Despite a solid start to the 2008 campaign, Dustin Johnson's recent results suggested the PGA Tour rookie might just be headed back to Q school.
Instead, the 24 year old carded back-to-back birdies on his final two holes Sunday to notch his first career victory in the Turning Stone Resort Championship at Atunyote Golf Club in Verona, N.Y. Johnson's final-round score of 3-under-par 69 gave him a 9-under 279 total for the tournament, good for a one-stroke victory over Robert Allenby.
The win not only gave Johnson a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, but the first-place check of $1.08 million also bumped him up from No. 128 to No. 41 on the money list. By moving into the top 30, the native of Columbia, S.C., could earn himself in invitation to the 2009 Masters.
Johnson and Charles Warren were able to jump into the top 125 this past week, staying in the running to regain their PGA Tour card. As a result, Rich Beem (from No. 124 to No. 126) and Tom Lehman (from No. 123 to No. 127) fell out.
Johnson said he didn't really know what to think of his first PGA Tour win.
"Hasn't quite sunk in yet, so I don't really quite know what's going on yet," Johnson told reporters. "Obviously, it's a great feeling. I feel like I've worked real hard the last month to get my game in shape to be in the position to win a tournament, so I'm very excited."
Johnson finished birdie-birdie, but had to wait more than half an hour to claim victory. Starting the day two shots off the lead and three groups ahead of the final pairing, Johnson wasn't declared a winner until Charles Howell III's attempt to hole out for eagle on the par-5 closing hole failed to find the mark.
Howell was among a group of seven players who finished tied for third at 7-under 281. The list also included Davis Love III, Robert Garrigus, Woody Austin, Steve Allan, Ryuji Imada and Mathew Goggin.
Allan recorded his second consecutive top-five fall finish.
Allenby, who was the highest ranked player in the field at No. 33 in the world rankings, recorded his fifth career runner-up finish and second of the season, also finishing second in the Stanford St. Jude Championship.
"Yeah, I'm disappointed. You know, I hit some putts that could have gone in," Allenby told reporters. "I mean, the greens are pretty bumpy and it's really hard.
"I was just too tentative really over the weekend. [Saturday] was probably my downfall. I probably left seven or eight putts out there yesterday."
After three top-15 finishes in his first four starts, Johnson started to struggle through much of the year. His last three tournaments included two withdrawals and a missed cut.
With nearly a month off before the start of the Fall Series at the Viking Classic, Johnson had a long sit-down talk with his coach. As a result, he dedicated himself to a more stringent practice routine in an effort to try and finish 2008 the way he started.
"I knew I had to focus a lot more, especially on my practice and the things we were working on in my posture and my setup and the takeaway," Johnson said. "[I] Just made sure I worked on them every day.
"[I] also worked a lot harder on my short game and my putting, which I had been doing. It paid off because I made a lot of good putts coming down the stretch."
In a week when rain made the 7,482-yard layout at Atunyote Golf Club play even longer, Johnson led the field in driving distance with a 303.7-yard average. The long-hitting Johnson said his length gave him quite an advantage.
"Obviously the golf course played so long because it was so wet," Johnson said. "I hit it pretty far, so definitely I think it favored me."
October 6, 2008
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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