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Thursday January 10, 2013

Dustin Johnson takes weather-hit PGA Tour opener by four strokes

MAUI (Hawaii): America’s Dustin Johnson captured the PGA Tour’s season-opener on Tuesday, firing a five-under 68 to win the weather-shortened Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

The big-hitting 28-year-old swept the 54-hole event by four strokes, finishing at 16-under 203 for his seventh PGA Tour title.

“It gives me a lot of confidence going into this year,” Johnson said. “I played really good golf the last two days. I stayed aggressive and hit a couple of bad drives but other than that I played really good.”

The tournament was originally supposed to conclude Monday, but high winds prevented any rounds from being completed from Friday through Sunday on the par-73 Plantation Course at Kapalua.

Extreme conditions then forced organisers to shorten the tournament to 54 holes, with 36 holes taking place on an extended Monday.

Johnson headed into the final round with a three-shot lead over defending champion Steve Stricker. He maintained his lead during the first Tuesday finish on the Tour in six years.

Stricker had to battle through a nerve problem in his upper thigh, but shot a 69 and finished alone in second place at 12-under.

“He came back strong, I knew it was going to be tough today but I gave him a bit of a run for a while,” Stricker said of Johnson.

Brandt Snedeker (69) placed third at 10-under. Bubba Watson (71) and Keegan Bradley (70) tied for fourth at nine-under.

Johnson, who has now won the last three 54-hole events on the PGA Tour, had to hold off challenges from both Stricker and Snedeker.

“It means a lot today, especially for my confidence, and just for all the things I’ve been working on and all the hard work I’ve put in,” Johnson said.

“It definitely got close out there today. I was always able to bounce back and do what I needed to do to stay out front.”

Snedeker started quickly, going birdie, birdie, eagle, birdie from holes number three to six to pull within a stroke of Johnson.

But his charge didn’t last, shooting three straight bogeys to close out his front nine.

Johnson birdied the seventh hole to extend his lead to five shots, but it shrunk when he missed the fairway on the ninth and was forced to settle for a bogey.

He had a double bogey on No. 13 which allowed Stricker to pull to within one stroke.

But Johnson then chipped in for an eagle on the par-four 14, and his lead was back to three when Stricker’s birdie putt came to rest on the lip of the hole.

“The chip on 14 was definitely the biggest shot,” Johnson said. “The drive set it up. I hit a great drive right at the flag which came up just short. I was fortunate to hit a great pitch and it went right in the middle.”

Johnson went on to make birdie on number 15 and 18 while Stricker managed a single birdie on the route in. — AFP

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