Match play. Stroke play. Does the format really matter right now for world No. 1 Dustin Johnson?
The reigning U.S. Open champion, on the heels of consecutive victories in the Genesis Open and WGC-Mexico Championship, went undefeated in seven matches to win the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin (Texas) Country Club, fending off 2016 U.S. Open low amateur Jon Rahm, of Spain, 1 up, in Sunday’s 18-hole championship match.
The 32-year-old Johnson is now the only player to complete the WGC grand slam, having won the Bridgestone Invitational last year and the HSBC Champions in 2013. Five of his 15 PGA Tour wins have come in WGC events. He also joined Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy as the only top-ranked players in the Official World Golf Ranking to have won the WGC-Match Play.
Dustin Johnson's 2017 (so far):— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) March 26, 2017
Congratulations on the #DellMatchPlay victory, @DJohnsonPGA! pic.twitter.com/Vfyg2PwJDw
More impressively, Johnson never trailed during the 112 holes he played, although he nearly relinquished a 5-up lead in the final. Rahm won holes 13, 15 and 16 to get within one hole, but Johnson managed to halve the final two holes with pars.
“That was a tough day, a long day,” said Johnson. “I'm proud of the way I played, the way I hung in there.”
Johnson began the week by defeating all three of his pool-play opponents, including fellow U.S. Open champions Webb Simpson (2012, 5 and 3) and Martin Kaymer (2014, 3 and 2). His final pool-play foe was reigning PGA champion Jimmy Walker, whom Johnson beat by a 5-and-3 margin.
Then Johnson opened the knockout rounds with a 5-and-4 win over two-time major champion Zach Johnson in the Round of 16. Alex Noren, of Sweden, and Hideto Tanihara, of Japan, challenged him in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, as both rallied to get their matches all square, only to see the long-hitting Johnson prevail in the end. He eliminated Noren, 3 and 2, and Tanihara, 1 up.
Johnson will look to win his fourth consecutive start this week at the Shell Houston Open before traveling to Augusta, Ga., for the Masters.
Only one other USGA champion advanced to the quarterfinals in Austin. Phil Mickelson, who successfully navigated his way through a match-play bracket en route to winning the 1990 U.S. Amateur, lost to Bill Haas in the quarterfinals, 2 and 1.
Second to One
So Yeon Ryu, the 2011 U.S. Women’s Open champion, carded a 6-under 66 in the final round of the Kia Classic at Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad, Calif. It still wasn’t good enough to catch fellow Korean Mirim Lee. Lee shot a final-round 65 to post a six-stroke victory over Ryu and 2012 USA Curtis Cup competitor Austin Ernst.
It was Ryu’s second runner-up finish of 2017 and her fourth top-10 placement.
Cristie Kerr, the 2007 U.S. Women’s Open champion, tied for fourth at 12-under 276, eight strokes behind Lee.
DeChambeau Shares Second in Puerto Rico
At the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open, the event played opposite the WGC-Match Play, two USGA champions shared second place. Two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen carded an 8-under 64 in the final round to fall two strokes short of champion D.A. Points, while 2015 U.S. Amateur champion Bryson DeChambeau fired a 67 to finish at 18-under 270.
It was DeChambeau’s best PGA Tour finish in 27 career starts, and his first top 10 since he made his professional debut at the RBC Heritage last April. The runner-up performance at Coco Beach Golf & Country Club was a breakthrough, as he had made just four cuts in 11 events in his first full PGA Tour season heading into the week. He made things interesting down the stretch, making long birdie putts on the 16th and 18th holes on Sunday to get in the clubhouse with a chance.
He's fired up.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 26, 2017
Bryson DeChambeau won't go down without a fight @PuertoRicoOpen. pic.twitter.com/KrvG00lFLG
"A couple of weeks ago, I three-putted a couple times – six times, in fact – and just cut the momentum out of me and that was kind of a disappointment,” said DeChambeau after ending the third round in a share of the lead. “So I took the three-putts out this week."
Peter Uihlein, the 2010 U.S. Amateur champion, tied for fifth place at 17-under 271 with Whee Kim and Sam Saunders, the grandson of 1960 U.S. Open champion Arnold Palmer.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.