KAPALUA, Hawaii /January 7, 2018 (AP)(STL.News) — Turns out the Sentry Tournament of Champions built the ideal trophy for Dustin Johnson. The 35-pound glass sculpture, embracing the essence of Maui, depicts a wave crashing on one side and a humpback whale on the other.
No one is riding higher at the moment. There’s no bigger fish in the water.
Johnson turned a two-shot lead into a runaway Sunday at Kapalua with a show of power that included one of the best shots he never saw. He hit driver on the 433-yard 12th hole that went 432 yards and 6 inches, the signature moment in a final round devoid of drama.
He closed with an 8-under 65 — the best score of the tournament — for an eight-shot victory. In a winners-only field that featured the top five players in the world, Johnson made a strong opening statement that a No. 1 ranking he has held for nearly a year won’t be easy to take away.
“If I can play like that every week, I’m going to win a lot of times,” he said.
He finished at 24-under 268. The eight-shot margin of victory was his largest ever, and it was one short of the tournament record set by David Duval since this event moved to Kapalua in 1999. Jordan Spieth also won by eight shots in 2016.
“I knew I was playing well, and it’s a golf course I’m really comfortable on,” Johnson said. “I was really driving it well this week. I knew as long as I could keep doing that, I was going to do well.”
Jon Rahm made his Kapalua debut by closing with a 69 to finish second. The 23-year-old from Spain moved to No. 3 in the world.
The way Johnson was playing, everyone was playing for second.
“It’s no easy task to catch DJ,” said Rahm, who lost to Johnson in the final of Match Play a year ago.
Johnson won for the 17th time on the PGA Tour, and the fifth time dating to the Genesis Open at Riviera last February. He has 11 straight seasons winning at least one tournament, the longest current streak on the PGA Tour.
This one wasn’t even close, just the way he wanted it.
Johnson lost a six-shot lead in the final round of the HSBC Champions in Shanghai last fall, his most recent PGA Tour start. Johnson has a short memory, and he never thought about China until it was mentioned to him on Saturday.
That proved to be only more fuel for him.
“I came out today with a lot of focus and I knew I wanted to play really well and not even … I didn’t want it to have to come down to the last couple holes,” he said. “More for myself and confidence, after what happened in Shanghai, I wanted to prove to myself that I still … that ain’t going to happen again.”
Instead, he produced a round that was entertaining even though the tournament was never in doubt.
He had a two-shot lead over Brian Harman, who struggled mightily with his speed on the greens and fell back quickly. Johnson effectively ended the tournament when he made three birdies on the opening six holes, saved par from a front bunker to a back pin on the par-3 eighth, and then birdied the par-5 ninth for a six-shot lead.
One shot defined the tournament — his tee shot on the 12th hole.
Johnson, who on Saturday holed a 70-yard chip down the hill for eagle, ripped his drive, picked up his tee and walked away. It’s a blind shot over the hill, with a strong wind at his back, so he never saw the ball race down the hill, onto the green and head straight to the cup until stopping 6 inches away.
“I could see it until it landed, but I knew it was on a good line,” he said. “I know exactly where I want it to come down out of the air, and it did. So I knew it was going to be pretty good. I just didn’t think I was going to have a tap-in.”
He heard cheering from the green. Then he got the word from Jim “Bones” Mackay, a course reporter for Golf Channel, that it was stiff. Johnson told him that he caught it a little thin. He was joking.
That stretched his lead to seven shots, and the rout was on.
Johnson joined Stuart Appleby (three times) and Geoff Ogilvy (twice) as the only multiple winners at Kapalua. He also won in 2013 when it was shortened to 54 holes because of wind so strong the start of the tournament was delayed for three days.
Harman closed with a 72 to finish third, while Hideki Matsuyama (66), Pat Perez (69) and Rickie Fowler (70) were another shot behind.
Johnson went 66-65 on the weekend.
He now takes a week off before going to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship against another strong field, this one on the European Tour, before returning to face more of the world’s best at Pebble Beach.
“I got off to a great start, and I want to keep it going,” Johnson said. “Everything is going in the right direction.”