Johnson wins Barclays; Els coming to Boston
EDISON, N.J. - When Ernie Els arrived at last week’s Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C., he said it was the start of his playoff season, since he was outside the top 125 on the points list and needed to play his way into the PGA Tour’s postseason during his final opportunity.
“The other guys have four playoff events. I’ve got five,’’ Els said. “There’s quite a bit of pressure on us. You need to perform.’’
Els clinched his spot in the postseason at Greensboro, and yesterday inched closer to his stated goal of five playoff events, which would culminate with his sixth straight trip to the Tour Championship.
He overcame an early double bogey and shot 67 at Plainfield Country Club, finishing in a tie for 32d at the playoff-opening
Because of the expected arrival of Hurricane Irene, tour and tournament officials canceled the final round scheduled for today and reduced the Barclays to 54 holes. Dustin Johnson made it two consecutive victories in tournaments shortened to three rounds, shooting a final-round 65 to beat Matt Kuchar by two strokes and climb from 19th to first in the points race.
While the top of the leaderboard was competitive and filled with great golf - Johnson was 19 under on his 54 holes, and Brandt Snedeker set the course record with a 61 - the real battles were elsewhere, with only the top 100 players in the points standings at the conclusion of the Barclays advancing to Norton, Mass., and projections changing by the minute, with each birdie and bogey impacting the race.
Els was one of eight who began the Barclays outside the top 100 but secured a spot in the Deutsche Bank. Nobody cut it closer, though. Projected at No. 107 at the start of the day, he finished 99th, just 4 points in front of Bryce Molder, the odd man out at 101st.
Molder, 91st to begin the Barclays, made a costly bogey on No. 8 (his 17th hole) and shot 70, good for a tie for 64th among the 72 players who made the cut. He finished 3 points behind No. 100 Ben Crane, who missed the cut.
In addition to Els, the other two who needed good weeks in Greensboro just to make the first playoff event have also advanced to the second. Padraig Harrington (69) tied for 13th and William McGirt (70) tied for 24th. It was enough to move Harrington from No. 124 to 80, and McGirt to go from 125th to 96th.
The biggest Barclays move by someone who didn’t have a Deutsche Bank spot lined up was Camilo Villegas. He closed with 65 yesterday and tied for sixth, and in seven days has gone from 125th to 109th to 51st.
“Definitely heading in the right direction,’’ Villegas said. “It’s not fun when you are not playing good. It’s about time to turn it around and play some good golf and have more fun.’’
Ian Poulter also cut it close, and his entry into the Deutsche Bank was far more dramatic than Els’s. Needing something special down the stretch, Poulter birdied four of his final five holes to shoot 64 and tie for 18th. He moved from 114th in the points to 78th.
Besides Els, Harrington, McGirt, Villegas, and Poulter, three others from outside the top 100 are now bound for Norton. Bill Lunde improved from No. 103 to 85, John Merrick from 104th to 98th, and Chris Stroud from 106th to 75th.
Joining Molder on the bumped list were Hunter Haas, Chris DiMarco, Paul Goydos, Nick O’Hern, Matt Bettencourt, Tim Herron, and Michael Bradley. Those seven missed the cut, including Haas, who was the highest-ranked player on the points list (No. 89) to fall out of the top 100.
All those headed to the Northeast will now be chasing Johnson, who was also the winner at the 2009 AT&T National Pro-Am, the most recent PGA Tour event shortened to 54 holes because of bad weather.
In three trips around the front nine at Plainfield, Johnson had 16 birdies and an eagle, shooting a 30 and two 29s. The eagle came at No. 4 yesterday, when he holed a bunker shot to take the lead from Kuchar, who was trying to win the Barclays for the second straight year.
Kuchar and Johnson were tied for the lead at 19 under until back-to-back bogeys by Kuchar on Nos. 12-13.
Following the front-nine birdie-fest, Johnson made nine pars coming in to secure his fifth PGA Tour victory - first this year - and second in the playoffs. He also won last year’s BMW Championship.
Johnson was heading home to South Carolina, assuming he could get on a flight before the airports in the New Jersey/New York area closed yesterday. He’ll savor the victory, though not sure when he’ll be arriving in Boston or what he’ll find here once Hurricane Irene passes through.
Michael Whitmer can be reached at email@example.com.