Johnson claims Travelers to keep PGA Tour streak alive

Dustin Johnson with the trophy after winning the Travelers Championship golf tournament at TPC River Highlands. (Reuters)
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Updated 30 June 2020

Johnson claims Travelers to keep PGA Tour streak alive

  • Johnson bagged his first tournament win since February 2019 after a closing 67 at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell

NEW YORK: Dustin Johnson fired a 3-under  67 to claim a one-shot victory at the Travelers Championship and keep his tournament win streak alive on Sunday.

Former world No. 1 Johnson bagged his first tournament win since February 2019 after a closing 67 at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut.

Johnson, who started the day two shots adrift of third round leader Brendon Todd after a brilliant 61 on Saturday, held his nerve after a late wobble following a weather delay.

The victory means Johnson has now won at least one tournament in each of the 13 seasons he has been on the PGA Tour, a feat matched only by an elite group of players that includes Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Tiger Woods.

“Obviously it’s a great streak and any time you’re mentioned with those names it’s good,” said Johnson, who finished on 19 under, one clear of Kevin Streelman.

“I’m proud of myself for continuing the streak, and I want to keep it going, but it was a long time between wins — hopefully it won’t be as long until the next one.

Although the tournament was played without spectators because of the coronavirus, Johnson admitted he had been nervous after a weather delay with three holes remaining.

“Even though there’s no fans, you still feel the pressure,” Johnson said.

“The weather delay didn’t help very much because I had time to start thinking ... but I figured out a way to get it done.”

The 36-year-old laid the foundations for victory with a run of three straight birdies either side of the turn to take sole possession of the lead as partner Todd struggled to make any birdies over the front nine.

After a bogey on the seventh which saw him relinquish a share of the lead, Johnson bounced back with a curling 27-foot birdie putt on the eighth to get back to 18 under.

He took the lead on the ninth after drilling a 126-yard second shot to within five feet of the pin before rolling in the simplest of birdie putts.

Johnson then pressed home his advantage on the 10th, stroking in another long birdie putt to go two shots clear.

Johnson looked to have taken an unassailable grip on the lead when Todd, who opened with 11 consecutive pars, then triple-bogeyed the 12th to fall out of contention.

But Johnson’s serene progress came unstuck on the par-5 13th, when his drive off the tee drifted out of bounds down the left side of the fairway.

He limited the damage by digging out a bogey and then hit back on the 14th with his sixth birdie of the day, draining a 16ft putt to take a two-shot lead.

Johnson was forced to scramble again on the par-four 15th when his tee-shot flew down the left and only narrowly avoided the pond guarding the green.

Johnson was forced to roll his trousers up and wade into the water for his second shot. He chipped from the rough and missed the green but was able to get up-and-down for par.

By now the biggest threat to Johnson’s chances of victory came from Streelman, playing in the group ahead.

Streelman’s hopes of snatching victory however vanished as he was unable to pick up any birdies over the closing five holes, reeling off five straight pars to finish with a 67, for an 18-under-par 262.

A one-hour weather interruption as a storm approached halted play with three pairings left on the course, and when play resumed Johnson bogeyed the 16th to trim his lead to one shot.

But Streelman missed long birdie chances on 17 and 18, and after Johnson safely parred the 17th, he made par on the 18th to seal the win.

Will Gordon and Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes shared third on 17 under while Kevin Na was a shot back after a closing 67.

Third round leader Todd, meanwhile, finished tied on 13 under with eight other players, including world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, after a 5-over  75.


Formula One in brave new world as Verstappen seeks repeat Austria triumph

Updated 2 min 47 sec ago

Formula One in brave new world as Verstappen seeks repeat Austria triumph

  • Teams are cut to a maximum of 80 staff, all in protective equipment

SPIELBERG, South Africa: Max Verstappen will seek a hat trick of home wins for Red Bull and an early lead in the drivers championship at this weekend’s delayed and somewhat surreal season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.

For everyone involved, the race will be an unprecedented experience — the calendar is unknown beyond the first eight races in Europe in 10 weeks, all to be run behind closed doors and severe limitations introduced with a new paddock protocol forbidding meetings.

As racing returns, the COVID-19 virus remains in circulation, which requires all participants to be tested before travel to Austria on private chartered jets, ongoing tests, the separation of teams and car crews into “bubbles” and controlled hotels.

Teams are cut to a maximum of 80 staff, all in protective equipment, there will be no sponsors, no guests and only a limited number of accredited broadcast and written news media.

Journalists, limited to a dozen instead of 300 or more, have to pass a test within 72 hours in advance of arrival and will not be allowed to leave the media center.

All interviews and news conferences will take place by video.

The teams will be kept isolated, based in tents with awnings instead of their usual grand motorhomes — and there is expected to be a synchronized taking the knee by the drivers on the grid, to support Black Lives Matter, ahead of Sunday’s race.

Afterwards, there will be no podium ceremony.

When the race begins, it will end the longest gap between races in the sport since 1962, but with two successive races in Austria and then one in Hungary, the pressure will be immediate and intense.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said: “There’s been a long drought. We all do this because we love it. We’ve missed it, so we can’t wait to start.”

“It’s going to be exciting and intense. The races come thick and fast.”

Dutch driver Verstappen, who bullied his way past Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc to triumph in front of a mass of his “orange army” of fans last year, says he is unfazed by high expectations or the absence of spectators at the Red Bull Ring, a remote and compact circuit in the Styrian Alps.

“I am not thinking about a hat trick,” he said.

“The most important thing for me is to have a competitive car and to perform at my best.

“I never consider myself as a favorite because, actually, when you look at the track, it’s not even our best one, but last year it was very warm and we were good at keeping the engine cool.

“So I don’t expect an easy win. I think Mercedes will be very strong again and they are the ones to beat.”

Verstappen, who has kept a low profile during the lockdown, delivered three wins and eight podiums last year as Lewis Hamilton claimed his sixth title with Mercedes, who this year seek an unprecedented seventh constructors’ and drivers’ double in succession.

Verstappen and teammate Alex Albon will have an upgraded Honda engine package, developed since the coronavirus lockdown ended, to boost them at the contest in the Styrian Alps where the 800-meter altitude can affect engine performance.

Mercedes will also have an updated package while Ferrari, struggling to match them in pre-season testing, announced Tuesday that they are updating their cars for the third race in Hungary.

Hamilton this year bids for a record-equalling seventh drivers title as he campaigns passionately for greater diversity, and against racism, in the sport.

“We are preparing the best way we can for what is going to be the most difficult season that F1 and all of us have experienced,” he said in a video from the team, which — at his prompting — is running black livery this year to support equality and diversity.