PALM HARBOR, Fla. – After cruising through the first 54 holes of the Valspar Championship seemingly without breaking a sweat, Dustin Johnson seemed like the man to beat. But keeping the Copperhead Course at bay for four straight days proved to be too tall of a task, even for the world No. 1.
Johnson struggled during the final round amid swirling winds and on crispy greens, shooting a 3-over 74 that dropped him into a tie for sixth. Pars were dearly sought for all the leaders down the stretch, but for Johnson the birdies were non-existent. Unable to capitalize on high-percentage opportunities on the par-5s or curl in a putt elsewhere, Johnson failed to make a single final-round birdie for the first time since Sunday of the 2017 WGC HSBC-Champions – when he blew a six-shot lead and finished runner-up to Justin Rose.
“I felt like I had a tough time judging the wind today for some reason,” Johnson said. “It kept switching directions a lot. I felt like I hit a lot of good shots that didn’t end up in good spots.”
Johnson was riding a streak of 14 straight sub-70 rounds, one that dated back to the opening round of the Genesis Open more than a month ago and included a third-round 67 to begin the day alone in second place. But he never threatened breaking par, let alone putting together a score in the 60s, as two bogeys over his first four holes left him in chase mode for much of the afternoon.
Johnson already has two wins to his credit this year, and Sunday’s result is still his fourth straight top-10 finish as he heads back to the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play next week, a tournament he won two years ago.
“I hit good putts, they just didn’t go in the hole,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I played bad. Felt like I was swinging well, and I still feel like I’m swinging well. I’ve still got a lot of confidence in the game, but just, yeah. Tough day, tough conditions and wasn’t spot on.”