Dustin Johnson will head to San Francisco for golf’s U.S. Open with a healthy back and his first win of the season.
Johnson yesterday won the St. Jude Classic by one shot to secure his sixth victory on U.S. PGA Tour. Johnson shot a final-round 4-under-par 66 at the TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee, yesterday for a four-round score of 9-under 271. John Merrick was second at 8 under following a 2-under 68.
It was Johnson’s second event following a three-month injury layoff. The 28-year-old pulled a back muscle lifting a jet ski at his home in March and returned to the tour at the Memorial Tournament last week, where he finished ninth.
“It feels really good, especially having so much time off,” Johnson, who collects $1 million with his first win of the year, told reporters.
Tee times for the final day were moved to earlier in the day because of the possibility of thunderstorms. Threesomes began play from the first and 10th tees at 7 a.m. local time, with the leaders teeing off at 8:54 a.m.
The $8 million U.S. Open begins at the Olympic Club in San Francisco on June 14. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson will play together for the first two rounds at the second major championship of the season.
Woods, the 6-1 oddsmakers’ favorite, is a three-time U.S. Open champion, while Mickelson has five runner-up finishes in the event to go with three Masters Tournament titles and the 2005 PGA Championship crown. Watson won the Masters in April for his first major victory.
Chad Campbell had a birdie at the 16th hole yesterday to take a one-shot lead at 8-under over Ryan Palmer, 2011 U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, Johnson and Merrick.
Johnson, playing in the next group, joined Campbell at 8-under with a birdie at No. 16. Moments later, McIlroy advanced to 8-under with a birdie at No. 17 and Merrick made it a four-way tie for the lead by also scoring four at the par-5 16th.
Johnson got his second straight birdie from about nine feet (2.7 meters) at the 17th to take the lead for good at 9-under.
Nick O’Hern of Australia moved to 8-under with a birdie at the 17th. McIlroy had a double-bogey six at the 18th hole to drop to 6-under after sending his tee shot into a water hazard, the same error Campbell and O’Hern made to finish with bogeys.
Palmer, Campbell, O’Hern and Davis Love III were tied for third place at 7-under.
If Johnson secures his first major title at the Olympic Club, he’d be the first player to win on the PGA Tour the week before the U.S. Open.