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Dustin Johnson squeezes out 21st tour title at Travelers Championship

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Dustin Johnson endured a fair amount of opposition on Sunday at the Travelers Championship. As obstacles to his march to a first victory of the season, he had to confront his competitors, the weather, and the caprice of golf that never fails to inject drama into an event.

Despite these barriers, the tall man from the coast was successful in holding off Kevin Streelman and others, and completed a weather-delayed, one-shot victory at TPC-River Highlands. For the quintessence of what led to the denouement, have a read of the words of the sage himself.

1. “Obviously coming off of an injury, or surgery last fall, and then only playing a couple tournaments before our shutdown, so I didn’t really get a lot of golf to get back in a rhythm, and then coming out — like I said, I probably wouldn’t have played Colonial — if it would have been a normal season I wouldn’t have played there because I just wasn’t ready.”

To set the stage, with all that has transpired in the great and small worlds that we inhabit, Dustin Johnson’s September scoping of the knee was forgotten. Did you remember? DJ served well at the Presidents Cup in December, but had not played since his operation in 2019’s ninth month. After the quarantine layoff, it’s evident that golfers felt compelled to enter events that should not have figured into their schedule, for the mere opportunity to compete, deoxidize the swing, and acclimate to the absence of gallery presence. Also, is Colonial Country Club a DJ-type of course? This pundit suggests not.

2. “Yeah, obviously hitting the provisional, the second tee ball for that hole, I knew I had to hit a good one, and I did. You know, made a nice bogey there and then came right back and made birdie on 14.”

While it’s more likely that a professional golfer will make a birdie-for-bogey on a par five, after hitting a tee ball OOB, it’s still a feat of physical and mental fortitude. Johnson’s tee ball at the par five 13th, a 300-yard hybrid, was barely outside the playing venue. Thus did decree the rules of golf that he reload, hitting three from the tee. His storied composure was on full display, as he ripped the provisional into the heart of the fairway, reached the green surrounds with his fourth, and got up and down for six.

3. “Obviously you’re in the moment, you’re playing, you’ve already played 15 holes, and then you’ve got to stop and wait to go finish. 16 was a tough pin over there, but obviously I wasn’t trying to hit anywhere near it.”

I’m not certain that Dustin Johnson employs a mental coach. His vibe, his chill, his snoreless sleep under pressure, is one of his trademarks. And yet, should he employ such an expert, for situations like this one? Someone who lays out a game play for the entry into a delay, the time spent in the delay, and the return to play? It’s worth consideration. Folks like to debate the number of major titles that this behemoth should have won. How many times were those potential major wins derailed by a mental error? Might have been on Thursday or Friday, but not everyone has a Phil-on-the-last-hole “I’m such an idiot” moment. Often, those mental implosions occur much earlier, at an equal cost, in an event. I’m not your expert, DJ, but someone might be.

4. “Supposed to hit that ball right in the middle of the green and have a 30-footer, but got a little greedy and tried to squeeze it over there to the flag and didn’t hit a great shot.”

As he returned to play, after the hour of lightning postponement, Johnson was faced with a straightforward play on a tricky par three. He bit off a bit more than necessary, and got a chunk of food stuck as a result. The ensuing bogey halved his lead over Streelman, and made the final 800 yards a bit dicier. Johnson mentioned that his return from the delay, to a par three hole, was different. Why should it be, for professionals and amateurs? What is it about a tee ball on a par three, versus playing a shot to the fairway on a longer hole, that makes us elevate our expectations and our blood pressure? Have a look at TPC-River Highlands. Would you rather have the tee shot on 16 or the one on 17, on the heels of a delay?

5.  “I wasn’t driving it good, wasn’t driving it really good all day … Today I didn’t hit many fairways, and that was the big difference … I hit a 3-hybrid [on 15 tee shot] very poorly. I don’t know what was going on with my tee balls today.”

During his post-round interview, the champion mentioned his inability to drive the ball as he would have liked. Three times, he mentioned his struggles. And not with just the driver. Other options were simply not there, and this only a day after driving the ball exquisitely, on his way to a career-low round of 61. Sunday saw gritty performances from Kevin Streelman, who made nary a bogey and finished solo second, and from Will Gordon, who rebounded from a Saturday struggle with a Sunday 64, to move into a tie for 3rd, a career best. It was Johnson, though, with all the swirling tension, who was grittiest of all.

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Ronald Montesano writes for GolfWRX.com from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

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Photos from the 2021 Palmetto Championship at Congaree

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GolfWRX is live from Congaree Golf Club for the Palmetto Championship. This one-time replacement for the RBC Canadian Open is the third PGA Tour event contested in South Carolina this season.

Palmetto State native Dustin Johnson headlines the field (and has been doing plenty of putter testing). Brooks Koepka and Jason Dufner will be teeing it up as well. John Pak and Davis Thompson will both be making their professional debuts.

General galleries

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Special galleries

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John Pak, college golf’s top player, signs with TaylorMade

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Editor’s note: We filed this piece for PGATour.com’s Equipment Report.

With a buddy on the bag and fresh off receiving the Jack Nicklaus Award in Columbus, Ohio, on Sunday, celebrated amateur and Florida State standout John Pak is making his professional debut at this week’s Palmetto Championship at Congaree — and he’ll do so as a TaylorMade staffer, the company announced today.

College golf’s top player, Pak has played TaylorMade gear and a Titleist ball since his amateur days. And as we found out from Ryan Ressa, TaylorMade’s player development manager, who has worked with Pak since he was in his early teens, it’s not surprising Pak will continue with the same bag setup and ball combination as he joins the professional ranks.

The Scotch Plains, New Jersey, native is an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of guy when it comes to his equipment, which is a trait Ressa sees among many of the game’s best. (Another TaylorMade staffer Tiger Woods, for one, comes to mind).

Ressa and TaylorMade have had a relationship with Pak for nearly a decade, and it’s Ressa’s job to not only make sure Pak is in the right equipment for his game but is also navigating the matrix of amateur competitions, college, and the decision to turn pro successfully.

According to Ressa, Pak, and other junior standouts, need new equipment, or at least a fitting, roughly every six months as their bodies and swings change.

Even so, while he’s transitioned into new fairway wood models as they’ve become available, the DNA of Pak’s bag has stayed largely the same.

“Jon is a very simple guy when it comes to equipment, and he doesn’t do a lot of tinkering outside of driver shafts,” Ressa said. “Deep down, he’s a great competitor. He just loves to compete and is focused on getting the ball in the hole. He’s stayed really, really consistent with the look of his irons, the loft of his wedges, and his bag setup. He’s been easy to work with and only needs one or two visits per year to get squared away.”

Read the full piece here.

Check out the full WITB here. 

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Morning 9: Fowler’s U.S. Open qualifying bid | Qualifying scores | Bryson: Rivalries good for golf

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Good Tuesday morning, golf fans.
1. Fowler’s U.S. Open qualifying bid
AP report…”Already facing a long day, Rickie Fowler found the road even tougher Monday in 36-hole qualifying as he tried to avoid missing the U.S. Open for the first time in 11 years.”
  • “Fowler was among 685 players seeking 54 spots in nine qualifiers across eight states to fill the field for the U.S. Open, which starts June 17 at Torrey Pines in San Diego.”
  • “He played his opening round at Brookside in 1-over 73, which was halted for three hours because of heavy rain and thunder, meaning he likely would need at least a 65 at The Lakes to have any chance.”
  • “Fowler wasn’t going down without a fight. He was 4 under for his round — 3 under for the qualifier — through 13 holes when it was too dark to continue because of the rain delay.”
Full scores, qualifiers here...other notables include Patrick Rodgers, Branden Grace, Bo Hoag, Troy Merritt, John Huh, Sam Ryder, and Akshay Bhatia
2. Premier Golf League slated for 2023?
The BBC’s Ian Carter with the report on the UK-based upstart’s plants to, well, start up…”Detailed plans for a £250m Premier Golf League aimed at revolutionising the professional game are to be revealed later this week.”
  • “BBC Sport has learned that the Formula 1 style global competition is scheduled to begin in January 2023 and would include 18 tournaments targeting the top 48 male players in the world.”
  • “A dozen of those events would be staged in the United States with the others “chasing the sun” around the world. Each competition would be worth $20m (£14m) with $4m going to the winner and last place picking up $150,000.”
  • “By way of comparison, the biggest purse on the PGA Tour for a single event is $2.7m from a $15m prize fund at the Players Championship.”
3. Bryson: Rivalries good for golf
Carlos Monarrez reporting from Rocket Mortgage Classic media day for the Detroit Free Press…”Bryson DeChambeau, at the center of the golf world because of his white-hot rivalry with Brooks Koepka, didn’t want to spend too much time discussing that rivalry Monday when he returned to speak about defending his title at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, July 1-4, at Detroit Golf Club.”
  • “DeChambeau, who will defend his U.S. Open title next week at Torrey Pines in San Diego, said the feud is good for the sport.”
  • “I think a good jesting rivalry is good for the game of golf, nothing too extreme,” he told reporters on media day at Detroit Golf Club. “But at the same point and time that’s all outside of the spectrum of what we’re here for today, and I think the most important thing is to be talking about what Rocket Mortgage is doing for the 313 area and I think the change the course initiative is something that’s bigger than the game of golf, compared to a rivalry.”
4. Armitage!
EuropeanTour.com report…”An emotional Marcus Armitage claimed his maiden European Tour title at the Porsche European Open after a sensational final round at Green Eagle Golf Courses.”
  • “The 33-year-old from England made six birdies and an eagle to race to eight under for the day and nine under for the week.”
  • “At that stage Armitage was four shots clear but he bogeyed the 16th after a misjudged putt from over 100 feet and needed a remarkable chip to save par on the 17th following an overly cautious tee shot”
GolfWRX may earn a commission of “GolfWRX Recommends” products.
5. Costly
Rob Oller voices his opinion for the Columbus Dispatch…”If Rahm had been vaccinated ASAP after his home state of Arizona opened eligibility to all adults on March 24, the 26-year-old Spaniard almost certainly would have avoided testing positive for COVID-19 Saturday at the Memorial Tournament.”
  • “And had he not tested positive, he would not have withdrawn from the Memorial, which he led by six shots with 18 left to play.”
  • “And if he had not withdrawn, Rahm stood a strong chance of leaving Muirfield Village Golf Club with a crystal trophy and $1.675 million.”
  • “It does not take a Fortune 500 company accountant to connect those dots. Get a tiny prick in the arm, avoid the huge hole in the pocket that allowed a cool million-and-a-half to slip through.”
6. Big things ahead for Megha Ganne after impressive U.S. Open showing
Emilia Migliaccio for Golf Channel…”A true class act. Ganne didn’t get frustrated for shooting a higher score than she wanted. She knew the course was bound to get her like it did everyone, but she was composed and motivated to fight the entire day for some birdies, which she finally got on the par-5 17th. She also knew that regardless of the final round results, it would be the week of a lifetime.”
  • “I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life. It’s everything I’ve wanted since I was little, so it’s just the best feeling.”
  • “…I can’t thank all these fans enough. They’ve made my week so much better than it could have been. I just felt like there was so much love and so much support, and all of them are really excited to be out here, which is so great to see because I feel like in a small way, I’m making an impact on the game, which is really cool.”
7. The first major champion from the Philippines
Kent Paisley for Golf Digest…”It was 8 a.m. local time on Monday in the Philippines when Saso won the playoff to claim the title, her first LPGA Tour victory. You can rightfully say that Saso raised a new dawn for the game of golf in her home country. “I’m just thankful that there’s so many people in the Philippines cheering for me,” Saso said. “I don’t know how to thank them. They gave me so much energy. I want to say thank you to everyone.”
  • “Interestingly, too, San Francisco has one of the largest Filipina populations of any city in the U.S., with Saso attracting an impressive following during her week at Olympic Club.”
  • “Pagdanganan wasn’t in the field at Olympic Club but is playing in next week’s LPGA stop in San Francisco and arrived at Olympic Club on Sunday to watch Saso starting on the fifth hole.”
  • “I think it’s not only good for her, but I think it’s good for the Philippines,” Pagdanganan said. “She put us on the radar. What she did was absolutely a great thing, not only for golf but for our country.”
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