Stats don’t tell story of Johnson’s victory
KAPALUA – Statistics can lie on the golf course, at least if that course is the Plantation at Kapalua in the 2013 Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Not only did 126 holes get played at an aggregate 41 over par in rounds that were wiped out by weather over the first three days, but eventual winner Dustin Johnson didn’t exactly light up the stat sheet in several areas.
Johnson hit 23 of 45 fairways, last in the 30-man field. His total of 171 feet, 2 inches, of putts made was 23rd, and he did not record a sand save. He did manage to recover well, hitting 48 of 54 greens in regulation, the second-best mark in the field.
Johnson showed his remarkable strength with his average driving distance of 279.3 yards, ranking second to Bubba Watson’s 280.7. In Tuesday’s final round, Johnson was the longest hitter, at 288.7.
Also on Tuesday, however, Johnson’s misfired drive on the 521-yard, par-5 ninth led to a bogey and his drive into the forest on the 407-yard, par-4 13th led to a double bogey. That reduced his lead to one stroke over eventual runner-up Steve Stricker, who was trying to repeat as champion.
“He’s an impressive player, has a lot talent,” Stricker said of Johnson. “Hits the ball a mile, but as I was talking to him out there, I was like: ‘Dude, what are you doing?’ He took out driver on a couple holes and let me back in the game.”
In the end, Johnson won by four strokes – and he didn’t do it by being conservative.
After chipping in for eagle on the 14th to boost the lead back to three, Johnson again pulled out driver on 15 and smacked it 286 yards on the way to a birdie to match Stricker.
“We are walking up 15 and I was like: ‘Why don’t you take iron out, make me have to make birdies instead of you hitting it in the trees and opening it up for me?’ ” Stricker said. “And he’s like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I know.’ “
After the tournament was over, Johnson said of the ninth: “On a hole like that I’m always going to hit driver. But on that hole, you know, I could have hit a 3-iron today. Would have been a smarter shot.”
As for the 13th, he said: “If I had it to do over, I definitely would not hit driver.”
Stricker, who was dealing with pain his left leg, said Johnson’s ability was simply too much.
“He’s got a lot of talent, and he’s got, it looks like, very little fear in him because he’ll hit one a little crooked, but he’ll pull out that driver again and try it again,” Stricker said. “And he pulled it off.”
Stricker stayed in contention by being accurate – he hit 33 of 45 fairways to tie for sixth and was tied for third in greens in regulation, with 47 of 54. He was 2-for-2 in sand saves, and ranked sixth in distance of putts made at 206-9.
“I never really tried to hit it all that hard,” Stricker said. “I did on the last hole. I tried to turn it over and get it down there and did pretty well. But for the most part, I was just trying to chip it out there. I felt like every time I moved over on my left side, I got that shot of pain and it was just hard to twist through the ball. I didn’t feel like I had a lot of power.”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org