Dustin Johnson shot a closing 68 to win the wind-battered Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii by four shots from fellow American Steve Stricker.
High winds reduced the first event of the season to playing 36 holes on Monday and 18 on Tuesday, but Johnson – who didn’t set foot on the course during either of the brief trial starts – was in a class of his own.
Despite two wayward drives that cost him three shots, Johnson never lost the lead at Kapalua. Stricker did come close to tying it at the 13th, narrowly missing with a birdie attempt, but a Johnson pitch in from 50 feet at the 14th restored his three-shot lead.
It is the third consecutive 54 hole event that Johnson has won, after rain hit Pebble Beach in 2009 and a hurricane at The Barclays in 2011.
"It gives me a lot of confidence going into this year," Johnson said and he is right to feel that way. Not since Tiger Woods has a player gone straight from college to winning in his first six seasons on Tour.
Brandt Snedeker finished third, six back, thanks in part to being five-under during a four-hole stretch on the front nine to get within one shot of the lead, before three straight bogeys halted his momentum. It moves the likeable American to number eight in the world golf ranking,s second only to Woods among the Americans.
Masters champion Bubba Watson and former PGA champion Keegan Bradley were another shot back. While Ian Poulter, the only British competitor in the 30-man field, finished 11 shots back in tied ninth.
Johnson, who gained the first win for TaylorMade’s new R1 driver, had mixed results of the tee. While he almost drove the 420-yard downwind 12th, he also lost a ball in the rough and, on the par-5 9th, pulled it enough to find a native area of high grass and trees.
"We found a shoe, some sunglasses, about five or six other balls," said Stricker, who joined in the search. "There might have been a guy living up in the tree."
Johnson found the ball, but it took two swings to get it back in play, and he had to two-putt from about 50 feet just to escape with double bogey.
With trouble to the right on the 14th, Johnson was brave and chose the driver again. "He hit a couple of wayward drives and opened the door me a little bit, and then he stepped up there with a driver again (on 14), and I'm like, `OK.' But then he piped it, and chips it in," Stricker said with a smile.
"Most guys would have been pulling out an iron or some utility club. It's amazing that he even did that, to tell you the truth."
After the eagle, Johnson pitched close to make birdie on 15 and didn’t drop any more shots coming in.
Here are the clubs that Johnson’s used at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions:
Driver: TaylorMade R1 (10°) with a Fujikura Fuel 2.0 X shaft
Fairway woods: TaylorMade R11S (15.5°) and R9 (19°) with Aldila RIP Series X shafts
Irons: RocketBladez Tour (3-PW) with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade TP xFT (54°, 60°) with with KBS Back Nickel shafts
Putter: Scotty Cameron for Titleist Newport prototype
Ball: TaylorMade Penta TP5