Dustin Johnson fired a six-under 65 on Saturday to launch the FedExCup playoffs with a two-shot win over US Ryder Cup teammate Matt Kuchar at The Barclays, an event cut to 54 holes because of Hurricane Irene.
Johnson ended with a 19-under total of 194 at a rain-softened Plainfield Country Club after a day of intermittent showers ahead of the approaching storm.
“This feels great,” the 27-year-old said after claiming his fifth US Tour win and first this season after four top-four results, including runner--up finishes at The Open and WGC-Cadillac Championship. “I feel like I’ve played pretty well all year, but just haven’t quite been able to get that win. The putter has been lacking a little bit. This week, I finally rolled in some putts.”
Holder Kuchar began the day one ahead of Johnson and Vijay Singh of Fiji and was tied with his fellow American at 19-under before taking three-putt bogeys on the par-five 12th and par-four 13th.
An eagle two at the fourth from a greenside bunker gave Johnson an early lead as the big-hitter blitzed his way to a six-under 29 on the front nine.
He feasted on the outward half in every round, shooting 29 on Friday and 30 in the opening round for a cumulative 17-under par on that nine.
“I don’t know what it is about the front nine, but I played it pretty well,” Johnson said. “I wish we could have just kept playing the front nine.”
Singh returned a 68 to finish tied for third with American Brandt Snedeker on 197.
Snedeker compiled a spectacular 10-under 61 after starting his round with five successive birdies.
Another shot back on 198 was American Jonathan Byrd, one ahead of Yang Yong-eun of South Korea, Britons Justin Rose and Brian Davis and Camilo Villegas of Colombia.
Yang, the 2009 USPGA champion, also flirted with breaking 60 as he reeled off six birdies in a row from the second and was nine--under for the day with three holes to play before missing a birdie putt at 16 and taking bogey at 17 to record a 63.
The victory lifted world No. 9 Johnson to the top of the FedExCup standings ahead of next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship, the second tournament of the four-event series that pays the overall winner a US$10 million bonus.
The top 100 on the points list qualify for the Deutsche Bank event that starts on Friday.
Asked if he had thought about the big cash bonus, Johnson said: “It would look good in the bank account, that’s for sure.”
As if to vindicate the organizers for reducing the tournament to 54 holes, it began pouring with rain around an hour after the final putt was holed.