Dustin Johnson stood on the 18th tee as powerful waves crashed along the sea wall along the left side of the famous 18th hole in Pebble Beach, Calif. Then he turned to face what he considers the toughest drive on the golf course.
“It’s such a gorgeous hole,” Johnson said. “If you miss it a little left, it’s not so pretty.”
What followed was a tee shot as majestic as the scenery around him.
Johnson’s drive was long and pure, setting up a simple birdie from the greenside bunker Sunday. It gave him a one-shot victory over David Duval and J.B. Holmes, making him the first player in 20 years to win back-to-back in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Johnson closed with a 2-over 74, the highest final round by a Pebble Beach champion since Johnny Miller (74) in 1994. The 25-year-old Johnson is the first player since Tiger Woods to go straight from college and win in each of his first three years on the PGA Tour.
Leading by one shot with five holes to play, Paul Goydos hit a chip that ran off the other side of the treacherous 14th green, another chip that came back down the slope toward his feet and three-putted for a quadruple-bogey 9.
He wound up with a 78 and tied for fifth.
Two other players – Bryce Molder and Alex Prugh (Ferris HS/University of Washington) – also made a 9 on the par-5 14th hole, the kind of carnage typically seen at the U.S. Open, which will be at Pebble in four months.
Duval put together his best four rounds in years, closing with a 3-under 69 that he didn’t think would be enough until Johnson went over the green and made a pair of bogeys on the back nine.
Johnson’s power, and the shot he struck on the 18th, made all the difference.
Duval doesn’t have the length to get home in two at Pebble’s closing hole, not into the ocean breeze on soft fairways, so he played smartly to the right. His wedge came up just enough short to catch the slope and roll 30 feet away.
“I feel like I did most of the things I wanted to do today,” Duval said.
Fred Couples gave the attention-starved Champions Tour a big boost.
The 50-year-old star won the ACE Group Classic in Naples, Fla., for his first victory on the 50-and-over tour, holding off Tommy Armour III by a stroke.
Couples closed with an 8-under 64 to finish at 17-under 199 at The Quarry, while Armour – making his Champions Tour debut – matched the tour record for lowest score in relation to par with an 11-under 61.
Couples made a 5-foot birdie putt on No. 17 and a tap-in par on 18 to wrap his first official victory since the PGA Tour’s 2003 Houston Open.
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