Dustin Johnson produces a glitzy finish in LIV Golf's first Vegas show
Dustin Johnson walks up the eighth hole with the Westgate Hotel in the background.
LIV Golf’s decision to stage a tournament in Las Vegas the same week as Super Bowl LVIII was … let’s call it ambitious. That’s looking at it as a sporting event. But consider LIV Golf, which blares music during tournament rounds at its 54-hole events, to be an entertainment product and the gamble to go to Vegas seemed to pay off with big odds.
LIV Golf Las Vegas was a show, and like the dozens of others held in the casinos along The Strip, this one came to a dramatic end.
In cold and windy conditions on Saturday at Las Vegas Country Club, six players shared the lead at 10 under with three holes to play, and Dustin Johnson birdied three of the last six to shoot one-under-par 69 and finish 54 holes at 12 under to claim his third overall LIV title by one shot.
Matt Wolff, who closed with a 69, found enough form to get in contention and finish fourth. Jon Rahm, in his second LIV appearance, grumbled about fan noise at one point and hit a shank when the tournament was on the line, eventually closing with a 71 to place solo eighth. “That was one of those ugly ones that starts with an ‘S,’” LIV commissioner Greg Norman said on the broadcast of Rahm’s hosel rocket on No. 15.
Talor Gooch, the 2023 individual season winner, scored 67 and tied for second with Peter Uhlein (68).
Johnson made birdies at the par-4 13th and par-5 15th to join a share of the lead before he stiffed an approach to close range and made the birdie putt on No. 17. That gave Johnson the lead on his own. After a two-putt par on No. 18, Johnson added a victory to LIV titles in Boston in 2022 and Tulsa last year. Saturday’s win came also with a $4 million individual check and a quarter of the $1.5 million his 4 Aces bagged for a runner up to Brooks Koepka’s Smash GC in the team component.
Combined with Johnson’s tie for fifth at LIV’s season opener in Mayakoba last week, the 39-year-old appears to be rounding into form with the Masters only 60 days away.
“The game is feeling in really good form for this early in the year, and so I'm excited for the rest of the year,” the 2020 Masters champion said. “I’ve still got a lot of work to do. I’ll take a couple days off and get back to work on Tuesday.
“I’ve got a big stretch coming up with [LIV events] in Saudi, Hong Kong, Doral, and then the Masters. I want to be in good form for the foreseeable future at least. I’ve got a lot of big tournaments.”
Johnson was coming off a lean year in professional golf. He won one LIV event, but in the majors, a T-10 at the U.S. Open was the only highlight. He finished outside the top 40 in the Masters and PGA and missed the cut at the Open Championship. It’s puzzling, then, that Johnson barely touched a club in his LIV offseason. But since preparing for Mayakoba, he has been grinding—especially on the short game.
Dustin Johnson celebrates his win with wife Paulina Gretzky.
“I rolled the putter really nicely the past two weeks, put a lot of work in on the greens,” he said. “I think that's the biggest thing from last year. I was struggling with the putter a lot, and then this year the first two events I've putted quite nicely.
“Last year I did not play very well. But it kind of goes with how much effort I put into it, too. I obviously could have worked a lot harder than I did.
“This year I've got a little more drive and determination because I don't enjoy not playing well. I enjoy playing well. I enjoy being up here talking to you guys [reporters] after the week is over, and I really enjoy holding up the trophies at the end of the week.”
The fans on site seemed to enjoy it, too. The crowd size appeared healthy for the final round as Sin City waited for Sunday’s Super Bowl to kick off.
“Look, it's a great town, especially this weekend,” Koepka said. “I'm glad everybody came out. There was a nice little turnout today, and they were loud, so that's always a good thing.”
LIV seems to have found a solid U.S. market in Vegas that would make perfect sense to return to while slowly gaining traction among American sports fans. Only time will tell if that show evolves into a residency.