Dustin Johnson, world No. 1 golfer, stays upbeat at Northern Trust

PARAMUS – One club kept landing Dustin Johnson in a mess of trouble and the defending champion still managed to almost crack the top 10.

The World’s No. 1 golfer climbed into a tie for 11th at The Northern Trust on Sunday despite driving it in the rough 10 times.

Nevertheless, Johnson was upbeat after shooting a 3-under-par 68 at The Ridgewood Country Club to finish at 10-under in this first of four events of the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

“I feel like the game is in good form and everything’s going real well,” said Johnson, 34. “I just need to work on the driver a little bit next week and get it dialed in.”

Johnson is dialed in at No. 2 in the FedEx Cup standings. He relinquished the top spot to Bryson DeChambeau, who climbed from ninth to first with Sunday’s 69 and 18-under victory at The Northern Trust.

The Playoffs are in their 12th year and Johnson is the only two-time titlist at this opener, first winning in 2011 when the event was called The Barclays.

Johnson’s work off the tee at Ridgewood CC, located 10 miles west of the George Washington Bridge and New York City, let him down. The South Carolinian only hit four of 14 fairways Sunday. He wasn’t much better over four rounds. He hit 42.86 percent of his fairways (24-for-56).

“This was probably the worst I drove it all year,” said Johnson, whose season average is 58.7, “and I just need to work on it a little bit.”

Johnson is enjoying an outstanding season that features three victories, most recently last month’s RBC Canadian Open. He has 10 top-10 finishes.

He remains a favorite to win his first FedEx Cup, after six times finishing in the top eight. He was runner-up in 2016 to Rory McIlroy and fourth last year.

Johnson had four birdies and just one bogey Sunday despite his misguided driver. His irons were good, his putting was solid and he played his back nine at 3-under.

He heads to Massachusetts for the Dell Technologies Championship, which opens Friday at TPC Boston, with only one club in his arsenal in need of fine-tuning.

“I feel good,” Johnson said. “I feel like I’m playing well. I’m putting well, I’m hitting a lot of good iron shots, good wedges. Everything’s good. I’ve just got to get it in the fairway a little bit more.”

Tony Finau finishes strong

Tony Finau capped a stellar week with a 3-under 68 to finish at 14-under and climb from 12th to fourth in the standings. He  had four birdies and just one bogey and played his last eight holes at 2-under.

“Yeah, it was a solid week,” said Finau, 28, a Utah native. “Really solid all around. Just really proud of the way I played in the first Playoff event. It’s important to get off to a good start in the playoffs and off on the right foot.”

Season-ending, season-saving experiences

Martin Laird, runner-up here in 2010 to Matt Kuchar, was among the 25 players whose season officially ended after not cracking the top 100 in the standings. He closed with 2-over 73 and tied for 73rd at 2-over to fall from 113th to 115th.

The biggest leap came from Ryan Palmer, who closed with 65 for 12-under and tie for fifth. He catapulted from 100th to 50th. Brian Stuard rose from 118th to 99th after carding 70 for a 7-under and tie for 25th.

Hole of the day

The first hole, a 388-yard par-4, played the 14th hardest – or fifth easiest – at 3.81 strokes – yet only three of the top 14 finishers birdied it. Champion Bryson DeChambeau set the tone with a birdie en route to his 2-under-par 69 and four-stroke win at 18-under. Also earning birdies were Australian Cameron Smith, who shot 69 and tied for third, and Aaron Wise, who shot 67 and tied for fifth. There was a total of 24 birdies, 50 pars and six bogeys or worse.

More from The Northern Trust

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More: The reason Tiger Woods had a long, frustrating week at Ridgewood CC

 

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