Updated February 10, 2024 - 4:38 pm
LIV Golf Las Vegas became anyone’s to win down the stretch Saturday. Leave it to the man who has come through more than just about anybody to get the job done.
Dustin Johnson birdied three of his final six holes to break away from a tight pack and win the debut event at Las Vegas Country Club. His final-round 69 took him to 12-under 198, good for a one-stroke win over Talor Gooch and Peter Uihlein.
After a week of rain and cold, players faced a new challenge Saturday: blustery winds that made an already narrow course even tighter.
“It was brutal. I knew from the start it was going to be a grind,” said Matthew Wolff, who finished fourth but was among six players who shared the lead with just three holes to play.
Johnson began the day tied at the top with Bryson DeChambeau, and they were joined in the final pairing by Jon Rahm. The marquee pairing was the focus of nearly everyone’s attention from the outset, but it was Uihlein and Wolff who moved to the front early and held the lead much of the day.
Then Johnson went to work.
He birdied the 13th to get back into the hunt, then added another birdie on the par-5 15th to pull into a six-way tie that included Uihlein, Rahm, Wolff, Gooch and Jason Kokrak. A birdie on 17 then moved him ahead, and a routine par at the last gave him his third victory on the breakaway circuit.
“I thought the golf course played really difficult, and I had a really tough time early just figuring out the wind and how much it was going to move the ball,” Johnson said. “But I kind of hung around there, and then obviously played really good my last seven, eight holes.”
Johnson, who has 24 wins on the PGA Tour and two major championships on his résumé, was one of the few players able to find fairways down the stretch. That gave him the ability to go at a few pins and make the key birdies.
That was his plan after making the turn, he said.
“I knew if I could hit fairways, obviously it’s a lot easier to control the ball, control the flight and the spin,” he said. “I knew I had some birdie holes coming up, and I just hit some nice shots.”
None was more impressive than his approach on the 17th, where he left it 12 feet right of the hole for the go-ahead birdie putt.
“I knew I was tied there and needed to give myself a good look, because that was probably going to be my best opportunity to make a birdie,” said Johnson, who took home $4 million for the win.
Uihlein was staying loose on the driving range at that point, anticipating a playoff until Johnson delivered on the 17th.
“It was just hard,” Uihlein said of the day. “Shout-out to the golf course, though. Four guys in double digits on a golf course that’s pretty short. A testament to the course.”
And while disappointed to come up short, Uihelin said he has nothing but respect for Johnson and the way he finished.
“He’s a stud for a reason,” Uihlein said.
In the team competition, Brooks Koepka’s Smash GC pulled away for a seven-shot win thanks to the efforts of Kokrak, Gooch and Graeme McDowell, who had the low round of the day with a bogey-free 65.
Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.