2018 St. Jude Classic grades: Dustin Johnson earns huge U.S. Open momentum with win in Memphis
D.J. didn't have to do much at TPC Southwind on Sunday
Dustin Johnson won his second event of the season and the 18th of his career in convincing fashion as he shot a 4-under 66 in the final round to get to 19 under overall and easily defeat Andrew Putnam by six (!) at the 2018 FedEx St. Jude Classic.
Johnson swatted away Putnam's barely-feeble attempt at victory (he shot 72 next to D.J.) and collected the 18th victory of his career in the process. After playing defense over the first 12 holes, which Johnson played to even par as Putnam, who co-led after 54 holes, scuffled a bit and played them in 2 over.
Then Johnson unofficially ended the festivities on the 13th hole when he made birdie to go three clear of Putnam. He came home with another birdie and then an eagle at the last (more on that in a minute). The three-foot putt for birdie on No, 13 came on the other side of a 359-yard drive, which is how Johnson normally ends the festivities.
Officially, he ended the tournament on his second shot on the par-4 18th hole, which was an eagle hole-out from 169 yards away. The ultimate exclamation point on a week where Johnson dominated from start to finish.
"I'm glad it's over for sure," said Johnson on CBS Sports. "What a cool way to end the day, to hole that shot on 18. A lot of good things happened this week. I knew coming in I was swinging really well and had a lot of confidence in the game. I played really well all week."
His array of strokes gained stats at TPC Southwind was dizzying.
- Off the tee: 4th
- Approach shots: 2nd
- Around the green: 14th
- Putting: 12th
Overall, he gained nearly 21 strokes on the field, which means you're going to win over 95 percent of the time. In a lesser field event like this one, that number is more or less 100 percent. Other than Putnam, the next closest competitor was J.B. Holmes, who finished at 9 under which was 10 back of D.J.
With the win, Johnson re-takes the No. 1 spot in the world from Justin Thomas ahead of the U.S. Open next week and collects his ninth victory in his last three seasons (after also winning nine in his first eight seasons). He has, for the better part of three years, been plausibly -- if not absolutely -- the best player on the planet, and now he'll go to another course in Shinnecock (a big boy pelt if there ever was one) looking to add to his major collection (currently just Oakmont in 2016).
"It feels like it's been a long time," said Johnson about time between wins. "But it's only been six months."
I've noted this all week, but it bears repeating. Johnson's second career victory here tells us nothing and means little (it's another bullet point in a career overflowing with them), although the walk-off eagle was delicious. It does, however, serve as a reminder for the rest of the 156-golfer field next week at the U.S. Open that D.J. is alive and well and is going to be a problem come next Sunday.
It feels like hyperbole to call D.J. an all-time great, but his career trajectory says he's going to win 25-30 times with a handful of majors. In this era, that qualifies as an all-time great. He's also a premium bagger of classic courses. Shinnecock certainly qualifies, and Johnson will go there with all the momentum he could ever want. Two U.S. Opens in three years at Oakmont and Shinnecock would be as special as it gets. Grade: A+
Here are the rest of our grades for the St. Jude Classic.
Brandt Snedeker (T6): This week is (mostly) about momentum going into the U.S. Open for the top players in the world, and Snedeker grabbed some with a 62 in Round 2. He has (maybe surprisingly) finished in the top 10 in three of the last five U.S. Opens. He's one of only four golfers to do that, and I'm excited to see how he plays next week at Shinnecock. Grade: A
Phil Mickelson (T12): Lefty shot a tasty 65 on Sunday to send him off in style to Shinnecock where he'll -- I'm not sure if you've heard about this undertaking -- try to become just the sixth player ever to win the career grand slam. I saw what I needed to see from Mickelson on Sunday after a sketchy pair of rounds in the middle of the tournament. He returned to the form he's been on for most of the season and finished in the top five in strokes gained on approach shots, which is where he'll need to be if he wants to improve on two top-five finishes in his career at Shinnecock and score that elusive first U.S. Open trophy. Grade: B
Braden Thornberry (T26): The soon-to-be Ole Miss senior had his week spoiled a bit by a 72 on Sunday, but he's had a tremendous two-year run at this tournament as an amateur. He followed a T4 in 2017 with another top 30 this time around, and I have to think the majority of his success has come as a result of the attitude he's taken toward pros going into the week.
"I think that's how you have to think of yourself, as the best of the best, and that's what I do," said Thornberry. "When I got here I don't think I'm any lesser than any of the guys I'm playing with and I just really enjoy the competition out here to know when I play well, there's other guys playing well and just let the best man win." Grade: B+
Brooks Koepka (T30): I feel a little less great about Koepka's U.S. Open chances than I did before the St. Jude Classic. He came in having burned at both The Players Championship and the Fort Worth Invitational, but a final round 73 sullied three other rounds under par at TPC Southwind. It's not necessarily cause for concern, per se, but you'd certainly rather head to Long Island the way Mickelson did than the way Koepka did. Grade: C+
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