Dustin Johnson overcomes triple bogey, makes 2 late birdies to top Cam Smith, Branden Grace in Tulsa playoff

May 14, 2023

Ian Maule

Dustin Johnson couldn’t do anything right for a big stretch late Sunday at LIV Golf’s event ooutside Tulsa at Cedar Ridge Country Club. He started the day with a two-shot lead, lost it and still ended up mustering enough to collect his second LIV Golf League victory with a birdie on the 18th hole in regulation, then one on the same hole 15 minutes later to top Cameron Smith and Branden Grace in a playoff.

After making three birdies on the first six holes, Johnson made a mess out of the par-4 10th hole when he recorded a triple-bogey 7. He rebounded nicely with a birdie on the 11th and another on the 14th, but he missed several short putts during the last few holes while Smith was scorching hot, making five birdies in the last seven holes.

Smith birdied the par-4 18th to put the finishing touches on a nine-under 61 and, for a few seconds, held a one-shot lead at the time. Moments later, Grace birdied the par-4 17th to tie Smith, then Johnson, who missed a birdie putt from inside 10 feet on 17, buried a birdie putt from 15 feet on the 18th to create a three-way playoff.

All three men found the fairway in the playoff and all three were in a similar position after their respective approach shots. Grace went first, from outside 16 feet, and missed. Johnson went second and, from a similar line as previously in regulation only a few feet farther, he drained his birdie, leaving Smith to decide if the event would be over or go onto a second playoff. Smith missed from 14 feet and Johnson won his second LIV Golf title.

Johnson shot 63-63-67 for the 17-under total and collected the $4 million prize.

“Everything I could do wrong I did wrong on the hole,” Johnson said of the triple-bogey on 10. “But to fight back and birdie 18 two times in a row when I had to … obviously really happy with that.”

Smith started the day six shots behind and opened with birdies on four of his first five holes. After six consecutive pars he closed with the five birdies over the last seven. The Australian shot 64-68-61 and was looking to win his second LIV title, after winning outside Chicago last year.

“It was really good stuff,” Smith said. “Still just a little bit disappointing.”

Grace (61-67-65) didn’t get the individual victory—in fact, he had to make a four-footer for par on the last to join the playoff—but he and his team, the Stingers, won the team format by a shot. Grace, team captain Louis Oosthuizen, Dean Burmester and Charl Schwartzel will split $3 million for topping Johnson’s 4 Aces by one shot Pat Perez, Patrick Reed and Peter Uihlein are the other three members of the squad.

With the PGA Championship next week at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., the finish for Johnson is promising because he hadn’t contended in an event all year. In five previous LIV events his best finish is seventh in Orlando. He tied for 25th place in Singapore two weeks ago and tied for 35th in Mayakoba to start the year. He shot 78-75 over the weekend at the Masters to tie for 48th place.

“I’m really playing well,” Johnson said. “It’s really good, got a lot of momentum going into next week.”