Dustin Johnson birdied the first playoff hole to beat Cameron Smith of Australia and Branden Grace of South Africa and win the inaugural LIV Tulsa title on Sunday in Broken Arrow, Okla.
Johnson had to birdie No. 18 to make sure he was part of the playoff. Then his putt from the fringe of the 18th green at Cedar Ridge Country Club rolled straight in, and the title was his once Smith missed a birdie putt from a similar distance.
Johnson will take the momentum from his second career LIV victory to next week’s PGA Championship in Rochester, N.Y. The last time LIV played an event the week before a major, Brooks Koepka won it and went on to tie for second at the Masters.
“The game is in really good shape. I feel like I’m doing everything really well right now,” Johnson said. “I’m really looking forward to next week, obviously get up there tonight and get out and get a little practice in (Monday).”
A former world No. 1, Johnson slept on the 36-hole lead at the Saudi-funded league’s first tournament in the Tulsa area. He, Smith and Grace played together and started their round at No. 1.
Grace — who shot a LIV record 61 on Friday — posted a bogey-free, 5-under 65 Sunday. Smith then matched Grace’s two-day-old record by making nine birdies and zero bogeys for a 61. Smith’s birdie at No. 18, like Johnson’s, also had to go in for Smith to join a tie at 17 under and force a playoff.
“When you get to put yourself in that situation, you’re doing something right. Played really good. Made putts when I needed to, especially on 17. Had a good two-putt on 18,” Grace said. “I thought I made my putt on the first playoff hole. But it was going to be one of those days where you had to dig deep, play well.”
Johnson shot a 3-under 67, pockmarked only by a disastrous triple bogey at the par-4 10th hole. But he was able to recover.
“I was able to battle back and made a nice birdie on the next hole on 11, hit some really nice shots on 12 and 13, just so did Grace,” Johnson said. “But yeah, just played solid. Obviously made a really nice putt on 18 in regulation and then another good one in the playoff.”
Harold Varner III also posted a 61 on Sunday, featuring eagles at the par-5 14th and par-4 17th holes, and finished alone in third at 13 under. Koepka (final-round 65), Bryson DeChambeau (67) and Eugenio Chacarra of Spain (64) tied for fourth at 12 under.
The all-South African Stinger GC won the team competition for the first time since LIV’s debut in London last June. Grace’s 65, Dean Burmester’s 64 and Charl Schwartzel’s 66 counted toward Stinger’s team score Sunday, and the squad finished the week at 40 under, one shot better than Johnson’s 4Aces.
–Field Level Media