Zach Johnson's torrid run of play continued as the PGA TOUR opened the second part of the 2013-14 season at the Plantation Course at Kapalua on the island of Maui. Johnson fired a final round seven-under-par 66 to post 19-under 273 to win the Hyundai Tournament of Champions by one shot over 20-year old stud Jordan Spieth and by two shots over Webb Simpson and Kevin Streelman.
Johnson was so good this week that his Sunday round three of 74, one-over-par, didn't keep him from the winner's circle. Johnson only carded five bogeys, which was T2 for the week, rolled in 22 birdies (T4) and had an eagle for 19-under. The 36-hole leader stumbled on Sunday but his bogey-free 66 on Monday saw him collect his 11th title on TOUR and it's the eighth time that he's come-from-behind to hoist the trophy. Johnson's record at Kapalua was not spectacular as he only had carded one top 10 in six tries and only had six rounds in the 60s in his no-cut event. Well, add three more rounds in the 60s THIS WEEK and add another title!
Check this out: Since 2007, only Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and now Zach Johnson have 11 TOUR wins that include a major. The 37-year-old continues his electric run of form as he backs up his BWM Championship title in September, his Northwestern Mutual World Challenge Playoff win over Woods with Monday's title. For weekly gamers or salary gamers, if Johnson is in the field, you need to have him in your range finder or suffer the consequences, as I did today in Yahoo! Johnson now joins the elite group who have won both at Kapalua and Waialae (Els, Furyk, Nicklaus, etc). Only Ernie Els has won both events on the Hawaii swing in consecutive weeks.
With this victory, Johnson collects $1,114,000, 500 FedExCup points and should have his spot wrapped up on the Ryder Cup team for Gleneagles in September.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the first seven events of 2013-14 as Zach Johnson joins Harris English, Jimmy Walker, Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson and Chris Kirk as the winners this year.
Jimmy Walker is the only first-time winner in 2013-14. There were 12 of them last season. We have seen five young studs, a player in his prime, Zach Johnson and Walker, another player in his prime, rack up the first seven wins of the year.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. This season, four of the first seven winners have held the outright or co-54-hole lead. Zach Johnson began the day two shots behind the triumvirate of Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth.
Dustin Johnson battled but came up short in defending his championship as he fell to T6. Only Stuart Appleby and Geoff Ogilvy have defended their titles at Kapalua.
Zach Johnson continues a trend of have premium players winning this title since 1999.
Young Guns versus Prime Time versus Old Guys
This is the part of the column where I list the winners and their age. Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and was joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia and now Zach Johnson, 37, this week.. Harris English, 24, joins Chris Kirk, 28, Webb Simpson, 28, and Dustin Johnson, 29, as the twenty-somethings on the board as the Young Guns now have four of seven wins to start the season. The Old Guys were led this week by Woody Austin's T13 finish. There were not many "old" guys to choose from this week!
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10
Jordan Spieth: If you are a non-believer, you might need to take yourself to the church of Spieth on Sundays for a while. He's not going anywhere. He should have struggled this week with the complex greens and wind patterns. He "lost" by a shot. He's 20. I was all-in late last summer and I'm not changing my view. Why? In his first event here he made TWO FRIGGIN' BOGEYS! TWO! WHY AM I YELLING? Spieth now has an experience of having a 54-hole (co) lead to add to his impressive resume. I think he'll learn from this.
Kevin Streelman: I wasn't sure if he was going to make it to Hawaii but once he got to Maui, he made the most of his chances. His wife gave birth the day after Christmas and he was joking on Twitter that he wasn't sure if he could get up and go. Well, he shows up late, plays nine holes, wins the Pro-Am the next day and finishes third. Streelman hops on the podium at Kapalua on his first visit as well. He's now finished T8 and third in his last two starts worldwide. Pay attention.
Webb Simpson: Playing with a heavy head and heavy heart, Simpson battled to the 54-hole co-lead as well as his normal caddy, Paul Tesori, was at home with his wife and gravely ill newborn. All of our prayers go out to the Tesori family.Ted Scott, Bubba Watson's caddy, picked up the bag this week and they almost pulled it off. Simpson, undaunted by who was on the bag, racked up 23 birdies against only five bogeys, proving once again he's a premium player in the world of golf and at Kapalua. His T3 finish adds to his T3 and T11. If he's playing, he's in your squad on Maui. This early season has seen him win in Las Vegas, T3 at HTOC and was T7 on Sea Island.
Jason Dufner: Impressive stuff this week from the King of Duffnering as he played three of his four rounds in the 60s to finish fifth. His iron game was decent and he finished in the middle of the pack in putting but he didn't make anything until the final round. He must have learned from last year as he jumped from T18 to fifth this season. I have a feeling he'll be back next year as well.
Billy Horschel: One of four players tied at T6, Horschel tied Johnson for the low round of the day, 66, on Monday as he completed his first HTOC. Like Johnson, his 66 was also bogey-free and he only racked up five bogeys (two doubles) in his first tournament on Kapalua. He was second in GIR and fourth in putts per GIR so that tells me his game was dialed in minus a couple of hiccups. Horschel had success in the silliest season as he was T3 in the Wendy's Three Tour Challenge and T4 the Franklin Templeton Shootout. I guess those events kept the rust off! This was only his second top 10 since the U.S. Open. Don't forget about this kid as well moving forward!
Matt Kuchar: Another week, another top 25/top 10. He's automatic. He's missed one, non-major cut in three years. He was tied with Simpson with most birdies made (23). In four starts here in the last five years he's finished third, T6, T9 and T6 this year. No excuse for not playing him this week. None. Or next week. Or the week after that.
Adam Scott: Did you have him for leading the field in strokes gained-putting this week? Neither did I. He finished T13 in GIR but his putter helped keep in the mix until a couple of late pars and a bogey knocked him to T6. I think T6 is his worst finish in his last five tournaments. At Kapalua, he's now finished T7 or better in four of six appearances. Cha-ching. He'll be at Waialae next week, warmed up and ready to win.
Dustin Johnson: The third 54-hole-co-leader made five bogeys on Monday after just making five all week. Even on fairways that were quite wide, Johnson had a couple of penalties that didn't help the cause throughout the week. He still made 22 birdies and finished T2 in GIR. His putting and wedge play let him down on Monday but he is prime and ready to go for a great season. He now has finished T6, WIN and T9 in his last three (in four years) here.
Ryan Moore: His solo 10th is his third top 10 in four starts in the new season. After finishing T28 last year in terrible weather, Moore bounced back and posted all four rounds under par. Any time there is a putting contest, Moore should be considered.