Dustin Johnson's Win at The Barclays Still Leaves Questions About Career
Make no mistake, Dustin Johnson was very impressive in his victory at Plainfield Country Club. He shot a final-round 65, leaving him at 19-under par over 54 holes. He torched the front nine, finishing 17 strokes better than par over 27 holes. His win vaulted him to No. 4 in the world rankings and to the top spot in the FedEx Cup standings.
Despite this, no questions about Dustin Johnson were answered by this victory.
Johnson has become defined by his shortfalls at major championships over the last two years. He imploded at the 2010 US Open after entering the final round with the lead. He grounded a club in a bunker at the 2010 PGA Championship, keeping him out of a playoff. He also faltered late at the British Open this year.
It is almost universally recognized that Johnson is one of the most talented players in the world. His ability to finish or play well in the final round doesn't seem to match the talent thus far.
While the stage of a major is needed to completely answer the critics, a win at The Barclays should have helped address them. However, due to circumstances out of Johnson's control, it failed to do so.
The tournament was forced to be shortened to 54 holes due to Hurricane Irene. This is the second time Johnson has won a rain-shortened event. He won the 2010 Pebble Beach Pro-Am over 54 holes, and had the lead after 54 on the same course in the US Open that year. Fairly or unfairly, a 54-hole win will be looked at with a blemish due to Johnson's past.
Due to a very rainy month of August, Plainfield Country Club was left slow and defenseless. The Donald Ross-designed course features many dog-leg holes, elevation changes along with severely sloping fairways and greens. Playing under 7,000 yards, the course did not require the precise precision and control that present the challenge.
Johnson won a tournament in which the field was able play with extreme aggression. One of the issues with him has been overly aggressive play. Plainfield would have presented consequences for aggressive play under normal conditions. It would have been better for Johnson to win under these circumstances.
His final-round 65 would have looked more impressive had 11 players not equaled or bested it. The field went very low on Saturday. Brandt Snedeker fired a course-record 61. Among the top 10 finishers, the worst final-round score was a 68.
Dustin Johnson reaffirmed that he has incredible skill. He deserves credit for playing well against a strong field. However, winning over 54 holes on a wet course did not tell us anything new about him. Obviously, he had no control over the conditions; you can't knock him for winning a tournament. You also though cannot use this win as evidence that his Sunday struggles at majors are a thing of the past.
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