By Tom LaMarre
Shortly after the PGA Tour returned from its three-month closure last June due to the coronavirus, Dustin Johnson launched a run that led to the best season of his already remarkable career.
Johnson started off Kevin Streelman by winning the Travelers Championship and will defend that title starting Thursday at the TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut.
The biggest difference is that this time there will be fans on the track.
“It was definitely weird to play without fans, but you still feel the pressure, you still feel how important a golf tournament is and you get out on the track, it felt the same for me if it was a Millions of fans or zero, ”said Johnson, who got a score of 69-64-61-67-261, 19 under par.
The win earned DJ at least one title in all 13 seasons he played on the PGA Tour, and he won the Northern Trust in August, the Tour Championship in September and the Masters in November.
Johnson took the FedEx Cup title, was named PGA Tour Player of the Year for the second time, and cemented himself as the No. 1 player in the World Golf Rankings.
However, 36-year-old Johnson, who has won 27 professional titles including 24 titles on the PGA Tour, will tee him off as No. 2 in the world at TPC River Highlands, as Jon Rahm from Spain took him to No. 1 by taking won the US Open on Sunday at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, where DJ finished 19th.
“We are excited to have our reigning champion in the field as we continue to develop plans for another world-class tournament,” said Tournament Director Nathan Grube of the Travelers Championship.
“His win at the TPC River Highlands last year sparked a record-breaking award-winning run for him and we are thrilled that Dustin will return to Connecticut to defend his title.
“We are in a good place. We are glad that the boys like to play here and we love to have them here. “
No. 6 Bryson DeChambeau, last year’s US Open Champion, No. 7 Patrick Cantlay, No. 8 Brooks Koepka and No. 9 Patrick Reed also play in the field from the top 10 in the world.
Others are Paul Casey from England, Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose from England, Scottie Scheffler, Francesco Molinari from Italy, Bubba Watson, Harris English, Russell Henley, Mackenzie Hughes from Canada, Daniel Berger, Cameron Smith from Australia, Guido Migliozzi from Italy, Joaquin Niemann from Chile, Abraham Ancer from Mexico and Matthew Wolff.
Johnson hopes to recapture first place by beating them all again.
1. Dustin Johnson, United States – The reigning Travelers champion shot 61 hits on round three en route to the title last year and has shown signs that he has overcome his recent slump by finishing 13th in the RBC Heritage, 10th in the Palmetto Championship and tied for 19th at the US Open when he was out on the hunt before shooting 74 on Sunday.
2. Bryson DeChambeau, United States – Took a short lead in the final round of his title defense at the US Open before imploding to a 77 to 26th in the second nine. Sixth-placed DeChambeau finished the last three years in the top 10 Travelers, ninth in 2018, eighth in 2019 and sixth last season.
3. Brooks Koepka, United States – Eighth-placed Koepka is another player who stumbled home with a chance to win the US Open as two bogeys on the final three holes gave him a 69 and had four strokes behind to finish fourth to reach. His best result in four starts with the Travelers was a tie for ninth place in 2016 when he shot 64 on lap three.
4. Paul Casey, England – Birdied the last three holes on the top nine on his way to a 70 that left him tied for seventh at the US Open after finishing fourth in the PGA, and has six top 10 this season Placements. Lost in a playoff to Bubba Watson at the Travelers in 2015 and finished second in 2018 when he led on a 62 in the third round before closing on a 72.
5. Francesco Molinari, Italy – Molinari started playing like the guy who trumped Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to win the 2018 Open Championship at Carnoustie, and Molinari finished 13th at the US Open despite a 76 in round two. Had three top 10s on West Coast Swing. His best result of three starts in the Travelers was a tie for 25th place in 2015.
6. Bubba Watson, USA – The two-time Masters Champion has three of his 12 PGA Tour victories in the Travelers, winning them in 2010, 2015 and 2018, in addition to three other top 10 finishes. Has seven top 25s this season and was talking about at the US Open before playing 77-76 over the weekend to plunge into a 50th place tie.
7. Patrick Cantlay, United States – In search of his first major US Open title, he climbed a steep hill with a 75 shot on lap two and ended up in 15th place with a 71-69 draw. Seventh-placed Cantlay finished 11th in the Travelers Championship last year, having finished 15th in each of the previous two seasons.
8. Harris English, United States – Birdied three of the last five holes to shoot 68 and finish three shots back as a solo third at the US Open. It was his sixth top 10 finish of the season, including a win at the Sony TOC. England’s best result in the Travelers was a tie for seventh place in 2014 when he finished second after the opening with 66-64.
9. Garrick Higgo, South Africa – Missed the cut by two strokes in his first US Open at 76-72-148, but that hasn’t detracted from what the 22-year-old has achieved this season. Higgo won twice on the European Tour in the Canary Islands in April and May and then took his first victory on the PGA Tour in the Palmetto Championship two weeks ago.
10. Patrick Reed, United States – Closed on a 67 with three birdies on the last five holes to climb 35 places overall for a tie for 19th place at the US Open. He has 12 top 25s this season, including six top 10s, winning the Farmers Insurance Open. Ninth place Reed finished fifth in the Travelers 2017, after finishing eleventh the year before.
OTHER PLAYERS TO SEE: Marc Leishman, Australia; Rickie Fowler, United States; Justin Rose, England; Si Woo Kim, South Korea; Daniel Berger, United States; Russell Henley, United States; Cameron Smith, Australia; Jhonattan Vegas, Venezuela; Mackenzie Hughes, Canada; Tony Finau, United States.
1. Guido Migliozzi, Italy – The five-time winner in Europe finished second in his two most recent events across the pond before taking a T-4 in his first US Open.
2. Abraham Ancer, Mexico – Still looking for his first PGA Tour win, but his T-8 in the PGA was his 13th top-25 of the season. T-11 in Travelers last year after a T-8 in 2019.
3. Matthew Wolff, United States – The 2019 3M Open winner took two months to mentally recharge and then became T-15 at the US Open after finishing runner-up in the 2020 event.
4. Joaquin Niemann, Chile – Eight-time professional winner with 22 shots 75 in round one, but T-31 at the US Open. Eight top 25s this season with two seconds. T-5 in 2019 travelers.
5. Scottie Scheffler, United States – Still looking for their first PGA Tour win, T-7 was his third top 10 in majors at the US Open. Seven top 10s this season, including T-8 in PGA.
For first round tee times, visit https: //www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html