Friday, March 1, 2024

2024 LIV Golf Las Vegas: Dustin Johnson emerges from crowded leaderboard to win third LIV title

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Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau entered the final day of LIV Golf Las Vegas in lockstep on the leaderboard with world No. 3 Jon Rahm not far behind. The star-studded final threesome took to the course at Las Vegas Country Club, and the three major champions battled the elements, their golf swings and each other with Johnson emerging victorious at 12 under thanks in large part to a late back-nine charge. 

Johnson’s 12-under total was just enough to clip Peter Uihlein in the penultimate group as well as defending league champion Talor Gooch by a single stroke. Both Uihlein and Gooch had previously served as Johnson’s teammates on his 4 Aces squad but have since been moved on to the RangeGoats and Smash, respectively. Johnson’s victory in Las Vegas marks his third on LIV Golf and the first of which that did not require a playoff.

“It’s a great win, and obviously today was tough,” said Johnson. I knew it was going to be tough, obviously, with the conditions. But a lot of really good players were right around the lead. I knew I was going to have to play well if I wanted to win … Got off to a little bit of a rocky start. I was hitting really good shots, they were just ending up in poor spots. I was hitting the shots I wanted to, I just was not playing the wind right.”

The two-time major champion’s day began in dream fashion as a birdie on the par-5 1st pushed him past DeChambeau and gave himself the solo lead. That was as easy as it would get for the former world No. 1 as blustery conditions and cool temperatures persisted, posing problems for most the field.

Johnson closed out his front nine with a pair of bogeys across his final four holes and opened the door for others to walk through. DeChambeau was the first to try as he went to the back nine with the lead before a poor swing coupled with some poor decision making led to a double bogey on No. 10. 

Johnson’s struggles continued with one more dropped shot on the 11th. These mistakes from the final group coincided with runs from Uihlein, Jason Kokrak and Matthew Wolff. And once Rahm made a birdie on 10 and Johnson regained his lost shot a few holes later, they were running six wide at the top of the leaderboard.

The Spaniard looked primed to enter the winner’s circle in just his second LIV Golf start, but similar to LIV Golf Mayakoba, Rahm faltered down the home stretch. Kokrak and Wolff followed suit and cut the list of potential winners in half.

A clutch par from Uihlein on the 18th hole set the clubhouse pace at 11 under. That was matched moments later when Gooch’s eagle effort on the par-5 1st, his final hole of the day, narrowly missed. Johnson remained on the golf course and maintained his cool, collective demeanor that we have grown to accustomed to seeing.

Keeping pace with the birdies ahead with one of his own on the par-5 15th, Johnson cruised past the others with another on the par-3 17th. Once his iron shot from the right rough on the final hole settled 20 feet from the pin, the 39-year-old knew the title was his.

Johnson may have finished atop the individual standings, but the team competition went to Brooks Koepka’s Smash. Leaning on the final-round performances of Gooch and Graeme McDowell, Koepka’s team collects their second title in league history and their first of this young season. Johnson’s 4 Aces finished seven strokes behind in second place, while Bubba Watson’s RangeGoats, led by Uihlein and Wolff, rounded out the podium.

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