ATLANTA (AP) – Dustin Johnson only looks like he plays without a pulse. Beneath his stoic stare and that swagger as he walked the fairways of East Lake were jangled nerves on Monday because it meant so much to him.
The USD15 million prize for winning the FedEx Cup? That would get anyone’s attention, especially someone who thought he was rich when Johnson cashed his first tournament checque as a PGA Tour rookie for USD113,571.
But there was more.
“The prestige, for sure,” Johnson said after delivering a key par putt and steady play down the stretch for a 2-under 68 and a three-shot victory in the Tour Championship.
“Being a FedEx Cup champion is something that I really wanted to do. I wanted to hold that trophy at the end of the day,” Johnson said. “It was something that I wanted to accomplish during my career.”
He did it by hitting his stride at just the right time.
He won two of the three FedEx Cup postseason events and lost in a playoff by a 65-foot putt in the other. It all came down to the final day of the final event, and even with a five-shot lead, it was never easy.
Xander Schauffele and Justin Thomas each got within three shots on the front nine. They each got within two shots of Johnson with two holes to play.
He never let them catch them, and his only birdie of the back nine on the final hole gave him his third victory since June and the 23rd of his PGA Tour career.
“It’s a very tough trophy to win,” Johnson said. “I controlled my own destiny, but I still had to go out and play well. I had a lot of great players right behind me. It got close at the end. I knew it was going to come down the stretch and I’d have to hit some golf shots.”
None were bigger than the 20-foot par putt on the 13th hole to keep his lead at three shots, the 5-iron safely on the green on the toughest hole at East Lake, another 5-iron over the water on the par-3 15th — the one hole where big numbers lurk — and a wedge out of a deep bunker and onto the green at the 16th.
“This is a tough golf course. No lead is safe,” Johnson said. “The guys gave me a good fight today.”
Johnson became the first number one seed at the Tour Championship to win the FedEx Cup since Tiger Woods in 2009.
Now he has his name etched on the silver trophy alongside some of the best from his generation, starting with Woods and most recently Rory McIlroy, with Hall of Famers, major champions and former world number one players in between.