ATLANTA — The level of golf displayed by Dustin Johnson these last three weeks is the stuff of dreams — and in this case, the stuff of incredible timing.
Aside from putting it all together during the week of a major championship — which once again looms — there might not be a better time to do so during the three-week run of FedEx Cup playoffs, which Johnson capped off Monday with a victory at the Tour Championship.
His final-round 68 was good enough to hold off Xander Schauffele (who shot the lowest 72-hole total of the week) and Justin Thomas by three shots in the strokes-adjusted Tour Championship format, earning him a $15 million bonus and the knowledge he is playing better than anyone with the U.S. Open just more than a week away.
“I’m playing probably some of the best golf I’ve ever played,” said Johnson, who is combined 56 under par over his past four tournaments.
Winning outside of Boston two weeks ago at the Northern Trust, finishing runner-up a week ago after losing in a playoff outside of Chicago at the BMW Championship, and now winning again at the Tour Championship, looks great on the resume as well as with the various accountants, agents and money managers in Johnson’s life.
It’s been a nice three-week haul, to the tune of more than $17.7 million.
There was the $15 million he won Sunday for capturing the FedEx Cup, which is billed as a season-long points race and is undoubtedly impacted by what you do throughout the year.
But winning and finishing runner-up in the first two events helped Johnson attain the top spot and thus gave him a two-shot lead in the staggered strokes format that the Tour Championship has employed now for two years.
There was $1,026,00 for his second-place finish, a playoff loss to Jon Rahm, at the BMW Championship. And there was $1.7-million for winning the Northern Trust.
And all that came after finishing tied for second at the PGA Championship four weeks ago, where Johnson held the 54-hole lead and shot 68 in the final round, but was passed by Collin Morikawa‘s closing 64. There’s little shame in shooting under par in the final round of a major, with Johnson finishing two shots back. Throw in the prize money there and it’s been more than $18.7 miillion in the last month for Johnson.
The money no longer makes Johnson blink (he’s earned more than $67 million in his PGA Tour career, and the FedEx money is unofficial and not added to that total.) And it’s a long way removed from when Johnson was trying to earn his PGA Tour card 13 years ago — and made $25,000.
“I thought I was rich because I probably didn’t have a couple hundred bucks in my bank account,” he said.
Due to the oddities that the coronavirus pandemic has wrought, Johnson cannot sit idly by counting his cash and relaxing on the beach. The rescheduled U.S. Open at Winged Foot is next week, and in a matter of days, Johnson will be on site at the famed course that promises to offer an extreme test.
All of which makes you wonder … how did DJ shoot 80? Twice?
Yep, back at the Memorial Tournament in July, following his victory at the Travelers Championship, Johnson shot consecutive 80s, beating just one player who completed two rounds.
The following week, Johnson withdrew from the 3M Championship following an opening-round 78, complaining of back issues.
So that’s 80-80-78. Since then, DJ has shot just two rounds of the past 20 rounds out of the 60s. And the worst was 71.
“The thing about DJ is you never know,” said Thomas, who by sharing second with Schauffele earned $4.5 million. “Hats off to him. I don’t know if he’ll talk about it, but I played with him at the Memorial, and I’ve never seen him as lost, anywhere remotely close to that lost.
“He was grinding his [butt] off. He was putting so bad and playing so bad. But he never gave up. He wasn’t quitting. He was just trying to figure it out there and he couldn’t find it again the next week, and then next you know, he’s the FedEx Cup champion and running away.
“That’s all you need to know about golf right there.”
And that’s all you need to know about Johnson, who seemingly has the ability to shed disappointment without much energy spent.
“I don’t even remember that,” Johnson said, somewhat kidding, but also noting he had no trouble moving on from the Memorial/3M struggles.
“It wasn’t hard at all,” he said. “I mean … I don’t know about you, but I hit bad shots all the time. Everything was just compounded a little bit. I don’t know. I just wasn’t swinging very good. My mind wasn’t in it. It was just a lot of bad. But it’s real easy to forget. All it takes is a couple of good shots and it’s gone.”
There is clearly something in Johnson’s ability to not take things too seriously, to not get too worked up about failure, that has served him well.
A year after three-putting the final green at Chambers Bay in 2015 to blow the U.S. Open, he won the tournament at Oakmont. He’s shown resiliency in bouncing back from tough losses at two major championships, the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, 10 years ago.
Even the PGA Championship last month at Harding Park saw a level of disappointment for Johnson. It was the fourth time he had failed to convert a 54-hole lead in a major.
And yet, here he is a month later, having won two of the last three tournaments and holding the FedEx Cup trophy.
Typically, there’d be a chance to relax, to enjoy. The Tour Championship is the end of a long season, and even though the new one starts right up, Johnson and other top players use the time to decompress.
Not now. Nothing is normal about 2020, golf included. The rescheduled U.S. Open begins on Sept. 17. In less than a week, Johnson will be at Winged Foot — a course he has never seen — trying to get ready to win a second major championship.
He now has 23 PGA Tour wins, moving one past Raymond Floyd and one behind Gary Player (who it should be noted had more than 100 professional worldwide wins, including nine major championships) and just two behind Johnny Miller.
There is, of course, that matter of majors, and just the one that Johnson owns. If timing is everything, then he should be primed to be among the contenders at Winged Foot. And again at the Masters in November.
“I am excited,” he said. “Obviously I’m playing well. I’ve got a lot of confidence in the game, so I’m really looking forward to the next couple months obviously.”