PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Dustin Johnson stood on the 18th tee as powerful waves crashed along the sea wall along the left side of the famous 18th hole at Pebble Beach. Then he turned to face what he considers the toughest drive on the golf course.
“It’s such a gorgeous hole,” Johnson said. “If you miss it a little left, it’s not so pretty.”
What followed was a tee shot as majestic as the scenery around him.
Johnson’s drive was long and pure, setting up a simple birdie from the greenside bunker Sunday. It gave him a one-shot victory over David Duval and J.B. Holmes, making him the first player in 20 years to win back-to-back in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Johnson closed with a 2-over 74, the highest final round by a Pebble Beach champion since Johnny Miller (74) in 1994. The 25-year-old Johnson is the first player since Tiger Woods to go straight from college and win in each of his first three years on the PGA Tour.
Johnson hit a 3-iron into the front right bunker, the best place to miss, and blasted out to 3 feet. He lightly pumped his fist when he made the putt, a mixture of celebration and relief from a long day in which four players had a share of the lead at some point.
“All you can ask for is a chance to win on the last hole,” Johnson said.
Paul Goydos didn’t get that opportunity. Leading by one shot with five holes to play, Goydos hit a chip that ran off the other side of the treacherous 14th green, another chip that came back down the slope toward his feet and three-putted for a quadruple-bogey 9.
He wound up with a 78 and tied for fifth.
Two other players – Bryce Molder and Alex Prugh – also made a 9 on the par-5 14th hole, the kind of carnage typically seen at the U.S. Open, which will be at Pebble in four months.
“It wasn’t like I didn’t try on all nine shots,” Goydos said. “The ninth one I really wasn’t all that excited about. Just everything I did on that hole didn’t work out.”
Johnson’s two victories were nothing alike.
He essentially won last year when he walked off Spyglass Hill on a Saturday with a four-shot lead. Johnson was declared the winner two days later when the tournament was shortened to 54 holes because of rain.
He had to work a lot longer – and harder – this time around.
Duval put together his best four rounds in years, closing with a 3-under 69 that he didn’t think would be enough until Johnson went over the green and made a pair of bogeys on the back nine.
Johnson’s power, and the shot he struck on the 18th, made all the difference.
Duval doesn’t have the length to get home in two at Pebble’s closing hole, not into the ocean breeze on soft fairways, so he played smartly to the right. His wedge came up just enough short to catch the slope and roll 30 feet away.
“I feel like I did most of the things I wanted to do today,” Duval said.
Holmes has the length, but he didn’t have the direction on the 18th. Playing in the group ahead of Johnson, he hit into the right rough and had to lay up, then missed a birdie putt just outside 12 feet.
“Would have liked it to end a little better for me, but I had a good week,” Holmes said after a 71. “Had my chances.”
Johnson made the most of his.
“The tee shot he hit on 18 was all world,” Goydos said. “I mean, that’s never straight and narrow where he’s hitting the ball, consider he has to make 4 to win the golf tournament. Pretty impressive.”
Johnson became the first player since Davis Love III in 2003 to win Pebble Beach with a birdie on the 72nd hole from the final group. He finished at 16-under 270 and moved to No. 2 in the Ryder Cup standings.
His future looks as bright as the sunshine that graced the Monterey Peninsula for so much of the week. Not since Mark O’Meara in 1990 has someone won back-to-back at Pebble Beach, and this can only help Johnson with the U.S. Open coming to Pebble this summer. The other back-to-back winners are all in the Hall of Fame – Sam Snead, Cary Middlecoff, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson.
“That’s not a bad list,” Johnson said. “Anytime you’re on a list with those guys, you’re doing all right.”
Johnson joins Sean O’Hair as the only Americans in the their 20s with three PGA Tour victories.
Duval earned $545,600 and might be able to take some confidence to Mexico for the Mayakoba Classic. After he tied for second in the U.S. Open last summer, Duval took the next two weeks off and missed seven cuts over his last eight tournaments to lose his card.
The U.S. Open returns to Pebble Beach for the fifth time in June, although it will be far differently with firm greens and fast fairways. Even so, it doesn’t hurt Johnson to have won twice here, even if he had only two sub-par holes in the final round.
The other was his eagle on the par-5 sixth, when he pounded a tee shot and had only a 6-iron to the green, sticking it to 4 feet.
And while he treats his two victories equally, nothing tops walking off the 18th green in sunshine before thousands of fans, instead of last year when he got a phone call at breakfast on a rainy Monday morning with news he had won.
“Walking down that 18th hole with all the fans out there was just unbelievable, especially with the clear day,” Johnson said. “It’s one of the most beautiful holes in golf.”