Dustin Johnson won his 21st PGA Tour title and his first for 16 months on Sunday in a tense finish to the Travelers Championship.
Johnson, who was world No1 a little over a year ago, fell out of the top five of the rankings last week, but staged an immediate return with a one-shot victory over fellow American Kevin Streelman after a 67 for 19-under.
The laconic big-hitter looked to be cruising when his playing partner and join-overnight leader, Brendon Todd, took a triple-bogey on the 12th.
But on the par-five 13th, Johnson received a terrible break when his drive narrowly finished out of bounds. However, on the drivable par-four 15th, Lady Luck repaid the debt when Johnson’s ball bizarrely came to rest a few feet short of the water hazard.
Johnson, 36, was able to escape with a par and despite the distraction of a suspension for a passing storm, he managed to repel Streelman, who had to be content with runner-up on 18-under after a 67.
In third place on 17-under, came rank outsider Will Gordon, whose 64 has earned him playing privileges on Tour, alongside Canadian Mackenzie Hughes.
Rory McIlroy has blamed “dumb mistakes” for his three-week run in the PGA Tour comeback yielding no top-10s. The world No1 is now ready take off a week more than first planned to fix the malaise.
McIlroy posted a 67 in the final round at Hartford, Connecticut to reach 13-under and ensure a top 20 finish that bettered his 32nd at Colonial in the opening tournament after the three-month hiatus and then a 41st at Harbour Town on the previous Sunday.
Yet without a couple of sloppy early bogeys and then a double-bogey on the 17th, it would have been so much more appealing. And that sums up not only his week, but his return following the lockdown.
“It’s frustrating,” McIlroy said. “Again, there’s been some really good stuff in there, but just some really stupid mistakes. It’s too up and down, a little bit rollercoaster-ish, where it didn’t really feel like that before we stopped [because of the pandemic].
“It was quite consistent before, when I was building rounds very nicely – a lot of pars, a few birdies and not many mistakes. My decision-making was terrible the last few days; just some stupid shots and trying to take too much on at times. Dumb mistakes I don’t usually make.”
He chipped in on the first but bogeyed the second and the fifth. From there he turned into the McIlroy we have become accustomed to, playing the next 11 holes in six-under, with a wedge from 122 yards to two feet on the seventh, a 35-footer eagle on the 13th and a holed bunker shot on the par-three 16th. The adrenaline was pumping.
However, on the 17th, McIlroy unwisely went for the green from a fairway bunker and hit it too fat and watched in despondency as landed in the lake. Mentally, the 31-year-old is clearly fatigued and it is entirely understandable that he is favouring not returning until the Memorial in Ohio in a fortnight.
“I’ve been frustrated on the course the last three weeks, not being in contention and it sort of sucks going off in the middle of the pack on a Sunday, knowing you don’t really have a chance,” McIlroy said. “So a couple of weeks at home maybe – just reset and start again.”