Dustin Johnson worked his way into position at the Valspar Championship on Thursday through Saturday, but he did little to help his cause on Sunday.
The World No. 1 never truly threatened and signed for a three-over 74 to finish in a tie for 6th. An ever par round would have been good enough to force a playoff with winner Paul Casey, who shot 72 and beat Louis Oosthuizen and Jason Kokrak by one.
Johnson played in the final group with Casey and was one off the lead to start the day, but he turned in his first birdie-less round in 17 months.
“It’s surprising, but, yeah, I hit good putts, they just didn’t go in the hole,” Johnson said. “I didn’t feel like I played bad, felt like I was swinging well and I still feel like I’m swinging well. I still got a lot of confidence in the game but just, yeah, tough day, tough conditions, and wasn’t spot on.”
Johnson gained strokes versus the field on the greens in each of the first three rounds, but he lost .683 strokes putting in the final round. His Sunday putting performance ranked 46th among the field, yet he still finished 14th in that category for the week.
He made just 46 feet, 7 inches of putts on Sunday after making more than 90 feet of putts in each of his first three rounds.
“This is as flat as I’ve ever seen DJ in a spot as big as it was today playing in the last group,” said NBC on-course reporter Jim “Bones” Mackay. “Certainly he is the best player in the world, but it is so unusual for him to come out and not be a factor later on and playing some explosive golf in terms of making some birdies.”
Despite making the turn in two over for the day, Johnson was still only two off the lead with nine to play. But a bogey on the par-3 15th was the final dagger in his chances at a victory.
“I felt like I had a tough time judging the wind today for some reason,” he said. “It was blowing but it was, it kept switching directions a lot. I felt like I hit a lot of good shots that didn’t end up in good spots and just didn’t feel like I played any different. Didn’t hole any putts and that’s the difference in shooting a couple under and a couple over.”
Johnson is in the field for next week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play at the Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas. He won the tournament in 2017 and owns six career WGC victories, second only to Tiger Woods’s 18.