There is clutch putting, and then there’s what Zach Johnson did Monday.
With his golf ball in the grass just off the fringe of the green and six yards from the hole at the 16th hole at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Ill., Johnson chose to putt instead of chip. The fast putt from the rough quickly rolled directly into the hole for a birdie that broke a 3-way tie for the lead at the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship.
It was the turning point of the rain-delayed tourney. It put Cedar Rapids native Johnson a shot ahead of Nick Watney, who had finished his tourney at 14-under par, and third-round leader Jim Furyk, who shot a 59 in Friday’s second round.
Johnson put an armbar on the event by making a 13-foot birdie putt at 17 around the same time third-round leader Jim Furyk was bogeying No. 16. Johnson parred the final hole — his 31st-straight hole without a bogey — to close out a 2-shot win over Watney with a 16-under total of 268. He earned $1,440,000, and zoomed to fourth on the FedExCup point standings.
The fourth and final FedExCup playoff event is this week’s Tour Championship in Atlanta. Whoever finishes first in the standings after that tourney at East Lake Golf Club gets a $10 million bonus.
The top five of the 30 players who qualified for Atlanta are Tiger Woods, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott, Johnson and Matt Kuchar. The points are reset this week. If any player in the top five wins Sunday, he’ll automatically win the FedExCup.
Three weeks earlier, Johnson skipped the first FedExCup tourney, the Barclays in New Jersey. It conflicted with the wedding of his brother, Gabe Johnson, in the Chicago area. On the day before the wedding, Zach, Gabe, their father, Dave Johnson of Cedar Rapids, and brother-in-law Dave Drees of Cedar Falls golfed at Conway Farms.
“There must have been some kind of good karma with the wedding situation,” Dave Johnson said from his office Monday. “Everybody was making a big deal out of (Zach missing the Barclays), but Zach doesn’t look at it that way.”
“It was a great day for me,” Zach Johnson said about that leisurely Friday spent golfing with his relatives. Monday was pretty great, too. It’s been a great summer, in fact.
All Johnson hadn’t done in the last three months was win. He had five straight Top-8 finishes from mid-July through mid-August, starting with a playoff loss to Jordan Spieth at the John Deere Classic. He had personal-bests of sixth at the British Open and eighth at the PGA Championship.
On top of that, he made a 25-foot putt on the final hole of the Deutsche Bank Championship two weeks ago to earn enough points to grab the 10th and last automatic berth on the U.S. Presidents Cup team, which will compete against the International Team in Ohio on the first week of October.
Now this, his 10th win in 10 years on the PGA Tour. Only 10 other active Tour players have as many, and of those, only 33-year-old Scott is younger than Johnson, 37. The two will be playing partners Thursday at the Tour Championship’s first round.
“I don’t like to be a prideful guy,” Johnson said in his post-round press conference, “but I’m very, very proud of what I’ve done out here.
“I’m not from Chicago, but I feel local. And the fans that followed me today, I heard it. I heard: ‘Go Iowa, Go Drake, Go Regis,’ my high school. I heard it all out there. I don’t want to understate that or take it for granted.”