Maui, HI – Dustin Johnson carded a 5-under 68 on Tuesday to post a 4-stroke victory at the windy, weather-shortened Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
The PGA Tour's season-opening event didn't officially begin until Monday -- the day it was scheduled to conclude -- due to heavy winds at the Plantation Course at Kapalua. The extreme conditions forced organizers to shorten the tournament to 54 holes, with 36 taking place on a marathon Monday.
Johnson emerged from that gauntlet with a 3-stroke lead over defending champion Steve Stricker and then maintained the edge during the first Tuesday finish since the 2006 Booz Allen Classic. The 28-year-old wrapped up 54 holes at 16-under 203 to capture his seventh PGA Tour title.
"It gives me a lot of confidence going into the year," Johnson said of the victory. "I'm very pleased to come out and get a win this week. I played really good golf the last two days."
With the win, Johnson became the first player since Tiger Woods (1996-2001) to win a tournament six consecutive years out of college.
Stricker, who was dealing with a nerve problem in his upper thigh, shot a 69 and ended alone in second place at 12-under. Brandt Snedeker (69) placed third at 10-under, while Bubba Watson (71) and Keegan Bradley (70) tied for fourth at minus-9.
Rickie Fowler (67) and Tommy Gainey (70) tied for sixth at 8-under, Carl Pettersson (70) placed eighth at 7-under, and Ian Poulter (69) and Matt Kuchar (69) tied for ninth at minus-5.
Johnson, who has now won the last three 54-hole PGA Tour events, never relinquished the lead on Tuesday despite challenges from both Stricker and Snedeker.
Early on, Snedeker went birdie, birdie, eagle, birdie from Nos. 3 - 6 to pull within a stroke of Johnson. The threat quickly quelled, however, when Snedeker closed his front nine with three consecutive bogeys.
Johnson took advantage and pushed his lead to five shots with a two-foot birdie tap-in at No. 6 and a left-to-right birdie roll from just inside 10 feet on No. 7.
Stricker stayed close with back-to-back birdies at the conclusion of his opening nine and Johnson saw his lead shrink to two strokes when he sent his tee shot on No. 9 into the high grass and was forced to settle for a bogey.
Johnson pushed the margin back to three with a birdie on the 12th, but another errant tee shot on No. 13 resulted in a double bogey for the leader, which allowed Stricker to pull within a single shot.
The unpredictable yet impressive round continued for Johnson on the par-4 14th when he sent his tee shot several yards short of green, then bounced his chip into the cup for an eagle. When Stricker's birdie putt came to rest of the lip of the hole, Johnson's lead was back to three.
Stricker managed a single birdie the rest of the way, while Johnson turned the trick on Nos. 15 and 18 to secure the victory.
"It's tough when you have a 3-shot lead to stay aggressive but I think I stayed aggressive all day, I just hit a couple bad drives ... cost me a few shots ... but other than that I played really good golf today," Johnson concluded.
NOTES: The last two 54-hole PGA Tour events that Johnson won were the 2011 Barclays (Hurricane Irene) and the 2009 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (rain) ... Stricker has posted five top-10 finishes in the last six years of this event.