USGA CHAMPIONS
Johnson Dominates in 2018 Opener January 7, 2018 | Liberty Corner, N.J. By David Shefter, USGA

2016 U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson started 2018 with an eight-stroke victory in Hawaii. (USGA/JD Cuban)

If Dustin Johnson’s New Year’s resolution was to reclaim his dominance, the world No. 1 did not take long to achieve that goal. Just seven days into the new year, the 2016 U.S. Open champion showcased why he is so difficult to beat when his game is in top form.

Johnson, 33, lapped the winners-only field that included the top five players in the Official World Golf Ranking to claim the Sentry Tournament of Champions title in Hawaii by eight strokes. His final-round 65 on Kapalua’s Plantation Course included a near-ace on the downhill, 433-yard, par-4 12th hole.

“If I can play like that every week, I’m going to win a lot of times,” said Johnson, who posted a 24-under total of 268 to win his 17th PGA Tour event and second Tournament of Champions. He also has won at least one tournament in 11 consecutive seasons.

The victory also erased the memory of his most recent PGA Tour start last fall, when he relinquished a six-stroke lead in the final round of the HSBC Champions in the People’s Republic of China.

“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,” said Johnson.

Johnson began Sunday’s final round with a two-stroke cushion over 2003 U.S. Junior Amateur champion and 2017 U.S. Open runner-up Brian Harman, but he slowly pulled away after a 4-under 32 on the outward nine. He punctuated his dominance with the mammoth drive on No. 12 that saw his ball roll within inches of the flagstick for a near double eagle. The tap-in eagle was followed by three consecutive birdies to complete the dominant performance.

Harman, who carded a 1-under 72 on Sunday, wound up finishing third at 277, one stroke behind Jon Rahm.

Year’s Best Honored

Late December through early January is generally a time frame when golf organizations dole out year-end awards.

USGA champions Lexi Thompson and Bernhard Langer achieved such a distinction by the Golf Writers Association of America when they were voted LPGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions players of the year, respectively.

Thompson, the 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion, posted a pair of victories and six runner-up finishes while also claiming the Race to CME Globe. The 22-year-old also captured the Vare Trophy with the LPGA Tour’s lowest scoring average of 69.114 in 2017. Thompson won the GWAA honor in a close vote over reigning U.S. Women’s Open champion Sung Hyun Park and 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion So Yeon Ryu.

Langer, the 2010 U.S. Senior Open champion, dominated the 50-and-over circuit again with seven victories, two of which were majors (KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship and Regions Tradition). While his string of Charles Schwab Championships ended at four – he finished second behind Kevin Sutherland – the German did finish in the top 10 in 18 of his 21 starts.

Langer and Thompson will receive their awards at the 46th ISPS Handa GWAA Annual Awards Dinner presented by The PGA of America and the USGA on April 4 in Augusta, Ga.

More Awards

Two more USGA champions were honored by AmateurGolf.com. Stewart Hagestad, the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion who helped the USA regain the Walker Cup in September at The Los Angeles Country Club, was named the mid-amateur player of the year, while 2013 U.S. Senior Amateur champion Doug Hanzel was chosen as the senior player of the year.

In April, Hagestad, 26, of Newport Beach, Calif., became the first invited U.S. Mid-Amateur champion to not only make the cut in the Masters, but also earn low-amateur honors. Two months later, he qualified for the U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

Hanzel, 60, of Savannah, Ga., won six tournaments and was the runner-up in five others.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.

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