Zach Johnson thought he had a short putt on the final green to win golf’s Crowne Plaza Invitational for a second time by three shots. Turned out he narrowly avoided being disqualified.
Johnson moved his ball marker at No. 18 to allow Dufner to putt out. He then failed to return the marker to its original spot before taking his final 5-foot putt. The error cost him a two-shot penalty, reducing his margin of victory to a single stroke yesterday at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.
“One, I got lucky because it was a two-shot penalty; two, I got lucky because they told me before I signed my score card,” Johnson, wearing the champion’s red plaid jacket, said in a news conference. “I’m just lucky that they mentioned it to me before I signed my score card and left the building.”
Had Johnson, the 2007 Masters Tournament winner, signed for a score of even-par 70, he would have been disqualified. Had he missed his final putt, Johnson would have dropped into a playoff with Dufner. As it turned out, the champion finished at 12-under-par 268 following a 2-over 72.
Dufner was 11-under after a 74, four shots ahead of Tommy Gainey, who was third.
It was Johnson’s eighth win on the U.S. PGA Tour and first since his win at Colonial in 2010. Johnson’s victory, his fourth in Texas, prevented Dufner from winning two weeks in a row and securing his third title since April 29.
“What he’s done the last month is beyond impressive,” Johnson said of Dufner. “I feel like I somewhat unseated a king, because he’s been on top for four weeks.”
Dufner beat Ernie Els in a playoff at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans for his maiden title on the tour before getting married and winning seven days ago at the Byron Nelson Championship in nearby Irving.
Dufner began yesterday with a one-shot lead over Johnson at 15-under par. The duo exchanged the lead several times during the final round before Johnson took a one-shot advantage with a 10-foot (3 meter) birdie putt at the 14th hole.
Johnson extended his advantage to four shots with three holes to play after Dufner hit his second shot from a fairway sand trap into a water hazard at No. 15. The error led to a triple-bogey seven, dropping Dufner to 11-under.
Johnson’s lead proved just enough to withstand a three-putt bogey at the par-3 16th and his error at No. 18.
The tour now moves to Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, for the Memorial Tournament. Tiger Woods is scheduled to play in the May 31 to June 3 event that’s hosted by Jack Nicklaus. Woods won the title three straight years through 2001 and again in 2009.