A blunder that would have gone down as one of the biggest gaffes in PGA history did not cost Zach Johnson his first tournament win in almost two years. But it was close to being just that.
Johnson cost himself two shots on the 72nd hole of the Crowne Plaza Invitational in Fort Worth, Texas by failing to replace his ball in its original position on the green after marking it to clear the path for playing partner Jason Dufner.
The two-stroke penalty left Johnson with a one-shot victory.
“I’m going to focus on the positives, because I hit a really solid putt and it’s a good thing I made it,” he said. “No harm, no foul. It was my fault.”
Even with the penalty assessed before signing his scorecard, Johnson’s 12-under 268 was enough to edge Dufner, who closed with a 74.
It was the eighth PGA Tour victory for Johnson, who moved into third place on the FedEx Cup standings. However, the 2007 Masters champion’s record streak of 15 consecutive under-par rounds at Colonial ended.
Tommy Gainey was a distant third at 7-under after a 67, a stroke better than Jim Furyk.
In what was essentially a match-play final round for the winner’s rather ugly plaid jacket, Johnson took command at the 414-yard 15th hole. Dufner’s approach hit the left side of that green then rolled into a ditch, leading to a triple bogey that put him four strokes back after Johnson’s par.
After winning at the Hewlett Packard Byron Nelson Championship last week, Dufner was trying to match Ben Hogan, his hero, as the only players to win both PGA Tour events in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in the same year. Hogan did it in 1946, when the tournaments weren’t played in consecutive weeks.
“Pretty good run, today obviously a little disappointing to play that poorly and not kind of a chance there at the end,” said Dufner, insisting fatigue didn’t come into play. “I feel pretty good actually. … I just played really poorly today.”
There had already been four two-stroke swings between Dufner and Johnson before that fateful 15th hole.
Dufner drove into a fairway bunker before the shot that trickled over a ledge into the water. He then pitched his drop all the way over the green and missed a 4-foot putt for double bogey.
Johnson made par at the same hole where a day earlier his approach settled into a grassy clump only inches from going into that ditch. With his feet together to keep from falling over himself, Johnson’s pitch from about 81 feet rolled only inches from the cup to set up a tap-in par-saver.
A hole earlier, Johnson had regained the lead with a 9-foot birdie putt at the 445-yard 14th after having blown a two-stroke lead.
At the 616-yard 11th, a straight par 5, Johnson’s drive to the left hit a tree and ricocheted back into the middle of the fairway. He took advantage with an 18 1/2-foot birdie putt to get to 15 under.
— With his victory, Johnson collected 500 FedExCup points and moved from No. 18 to No. 3 in the standings. With 1,386 points, he trails leader Dufner by 349 points. Hunter Mahan is second, with 1,427 points.
— Johnson notched his eighth PGA Tour victory in his 226th start (2004 BellSouth Classic, 2007 Masters Tournament, 2007 AT&T Classic, 2008 Valero Texas Open, 209 Sony Open in Hawaii, 2009 Valero Texas Open, 2010 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, 2011 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial).
— Johnson has posted multiple victories at three tournaments: 2004 & 2007 AT&T Classic, 2008 & 2009 Valero Texas Open, 2010 & 2012 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
— Johnson’s final-round 2-over 72 snapped a streak of 15 consecutive rounds in the 60s at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, dating to a first-round 69 in 2009.
— The win is the 42nd top-10 finish and 100th top-25 finish of Johnson’s career.