Dominant Dustin back to No.1 with St. Jude triumph
Dustin Johnson set himself up for a busy summer in perfect style by cruising to a six-stroke victory at the St. Jude Classic and reclaiming his spot as world No.1 in the process.
With the second major of the year just four days away and The 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie in a little over five weeks’ time, there was arguably no better moment for Johnson to claim his first tournament victory since January and the manner in which he won it will have his rivals on high alert.
Heading into the final day at TPC Southwind in Memphis as joint leader with Andrew Putnam, the 33-year-old fired a four-under-par 66 and even holed a 171-yard nine iron for an eagle on the last to cap a six-shot triumph over Putnam in style.
Back to the summit
Having been ranked number one in the world since February 2017, Johnson was usurped by fellow American Justin Thomas four weeks ago but an 18th PGA Tour victory of his career was enough to climb back to the summit ahead of the summer swing.
And the one-time major winner – whose best finish at The Open was tied second at Royal St George’s in 2011 – was ecstatic to lay down a marker to his rivals, as well as reclaim the No.1 spot from Thomas.
"It means a lot [to get back to No.1]," said Johnson. "It was a long way to get there, and I held it for a long time, and obviously JT took it from me for a little while. It was nice to finish like that and get it back.
"Winning this week I think is a bigger confidence booster than being No. 1 in the world though. Playing the way I did all week, knowing everything that was on the line gives me a lot of confidence. It was a big win, it was a big statement.
"By the reaction from the crowd, I thought my second shot on 18 might have gone in, but I couldn't see it so it was kind of tough. What a cool way to end!”
Cink hitting the heights once more
It’s now nine years since Stewart Cink broke Tom Watson’s heart in a four-hole play-off at Turnberry to become the 2009 Champion Golfer of the Year.
That’s the 45-year-old’s only major to date, although he has recorded top-three finishes in each of the other three, but he recaptured something resembling his best form at the St. Jude Classic.
A slightly disappointing conclusion saw him close with back-to-back bogeys but he still ended on eight-under, good enough for tied-fourth – his first top-five finish since the 2015 RBC Canadian Open.
Cink said: “I'm going to call a spade a spade, it was a really good week for me and I got a chance to be in contention.
“I had a good time battling, learned a little bit about what I need to work on.”
Lefty finishes strongly
Another Champion Golfer – 2013 Claret Jug holder Phil Mickelson – finished the week with an impressive five-under round of 65, notching six birdies in the process.
Two of those came in the final four holes and the 47-year-old now heads into Thursday’s US Open – the only major he hasn’t won but has finished runner-up at six times – with renewed confidence.
“It certainly helps; you don't want to go in there limping," said Mickelson. "Obviously, I'd loved to have come out with a win, but these last couple of weeks give me a little bit of momentum heading into next week."
Korhonen beats the clock to break European Tour duck
On the other side of the pond, the inaugural Shot Clock Masters in Austria fittingly ended with an inaugural European Tour winner, as Finland’s Mikko Korhonen secured a six-shot triumph.
Korhonen took a five-stroke lead into the final round and rarely looked troubled, as 22-year-old Scot Connor Syme – who was ranked 836th in the world heading into the tournament – clinched second with a 50-foot birdie putt on the last.
The tournament in Austria was the first in professional golf to time each shot from every player in the field – with golfers having 50 seconds to take their shot if they were first to play, including tee shots on par threes, or 40 seconds for tee shots on other holes or when second or third to play.
And Syme was a fan of the new-look structure.
“I absolutely loved it,” he said. “With me being in contention, there may have been shots I would have stood off from, but with the time limit I knew I couldn't. In that sense I think it helps the players.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the format.”