ATLANTA – Dustin Johnson hit his stride at the right time and it paid off immensely.
Johnson eventually won the FedEx Cup on Monday by holding on to his nerves, hitting just enough fairways and making a few key putts as his lead started to narrow. He tapped in for a birdie on the final hole for a 2-under 68, which earned him a three-shot victory over Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele in the Tour Championship.
Johnson won the $ 15 million prize, the largest in golf. Equally important, his name was engraved on that FedEx Cup silver trophy alongside some of the best of his generation, starting with Tiger Woods and most recently Rory McIlroy.
“This is a difficult course. No line is safe, ”said Johnson. "The guys gave me a good fight today."
He became the first Tour Championship seed to win the FedEx Cup since Tiger Woods in 2009.
Johnson was used for a five-shot lead at 19 under par – 9 under on its own score and the tournament started at 10 under as the No. 1 seed in the FedEx Cup.
He finished 21 under.
Schauffele, who tends to do his best at big moments, and Thomas each got within three shots on the front nine. They both closed to within two shots deep on the back nine at East Lake.
Johnson gave the lightest hand pump – that's a big emotion to him – when he drilled a 6-foot par putt on the 13th hole that kept his lead on three. He made nothing but pars on the back nine until there was no doubt about the outcome.
Thomas bogeyed a wild tee shot to the right on the 17th. Schauffele also had to scramble on the 17th and escaped with par after a tee shot in the bunker. And on the par-5 18th, Johnson unleashed a ride that started past the pine trees on the left and slowly faded into the center of the fairway.
That put up a little bird from the front bunker, a hug with brother Austin, his caddy and a trophy he wanted for so long.
Schauffele had the lowest score over 72 holes at 15 under 265, but with no victory this year he started at number 14 in the FedEx Cup and saw the world's No. 1 player seven shots.
Schauffele and Thomas were in second place, earning $ 4.5 million each.
Jon Rahm, the number 2 seed, finished with a 66 and finished fourth, earning $ 3 million. Scottie Scheffler, who was getting ready to start his rookie year a year ago, finished 66-65 and came fifth for a $ 2.5 million payout.
And so ended the strangest season on the PGA Tour, which doesn't feel like the end at all, except for the $ 15 million awarded to Johnson, $ 14 million now, and $ 1 million delayed.
The new season starts on Thursday. There are two more majors to be played.
Golf was shut down for three months and when it restarted Johnson was No. 111 in the FedEx Cup. He won the Travelers Championship and a month later a play began that earned him the prize he wanted so badly.
In four consecutive tournaments against the best fields, he had 54 holes three times and was tied in the other. He turned one into an 11-shot win. He lost to a 65 from Collin Morikawa on the P.G.A. Championship and a 65-foot putt by Rahm at the BMW Championship.
He really wanted the latter, and even put a five-shot lead at East Lake, it was never easy.
Johnson made an 18-foot birdie early which was important because Schauffele kept getting close. Johnson had consecutive birdies through the par-5 sixth, keeping his lead at 5.
But he went right off the tee at No. 7 and had to throw back to the fairway. He three-putted from 55 feet to the edge at number 8 and dropped another shot. The lead continued to shrink. Johnson rolled his long birdie putt on the par-3 ninth about 2 yards further, returning the par putt to keep his lead at 3.
No putt was bigger than the 13th, when its lead was to two shots over Schauffele. Johnson went from rough left to right of the green, chiping weakly to 6 meters. He drilled the par putt, recovered the lead to three and was on his way.
"It's a very difficult trophy to win," said Johnson. “I controlled my own destiny, but I still had to play well. I had many great players behind me. It got close at the end. I knew it would come along the track and I would have to do some golf shots. "