Six years ago, Kevin Streelman erased a four-shot deficit and finished the Travelers Championship with seven consecutive birdies to earn his second PGA Tour victory with a one-stroke victory. Twice, Streelman pulled with a single shot of Dustin Johnson Sunday but Johnson didn’t leave Streelman an opportunity to steal away the championship.
Johnson had six birdies and shot a three-under-par 67 to finish the day with a 19 under total of 261 and beat Streelman by a single stroke for the 2020 Travelers Championship title at the TPC-River Highlands Sunday in Cromwell. It’s the 21st career PGA win for Johnson, who has won at least one PGA Tour event in his first 13 years on the tour.
Canadian Mackenzie Hughes, who shot an opening round 60 to lead after one round, shot a 67 Sunday and finished tied for third with Will Gordon, who received a sponsor’s exemption to play in the tournament. Hughes and Gordon were two shots off the pace with a 17-under 263.
Brendon Todd, who had a two-stroke lead after the third round, stumbled with a 75 to fall out of contention. Todd had nine birdies on Saturday to take the lead. On Sunday, he didn’t have a single birdie, had two bogeys and a disastrous triple bogey on the 12th hole.
Ranked No. 6 in the world, Johnson caught Todd with birdies on the fourth and fifth holes and took the lead for good with a short birdie putt on the ninth hole. He extended his lead to two shots with another birdie on the tenth hole.
Johnson stumbled momentarily but didn’t leave room for Streelman to take advantage.
Johnson pulled a drive out of bounds on the 13th hole and had a bogey, cutting his lead over Streelman to one stroke. Another drive on the 15th hole nearly ended up in the lake. Johnson had to take his shoes and socks off and stand in the water to play his second shot. He did manage to save par on the hole.
Streelman missed birdie puts on the final two holes in a bid to tie Johnson, who made routine putts for par to secure his first Travelers Championship victory.
“It’s very exciting to get my 21st (career) win and then get my first win of the season,” Johnson said. “It was big because I hadn’t played very well. But I put in a lot of good work the last couple weeks after Colonial, and so it’s nice to see the game just start coming around.”
It was a different type of finish for Johnson since the tournament was played without fans on the TPC-River Highlands grounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, it didn’t calm Johnson’s nerves down the stretch.
“It was definitely strange playing with no fans, but you still can feel the pressure,” he said. “You still can feel how important a golf tournament it is, and you’re coming down the stretch, to me it felt the same, whether it was a million fans or zero.
“It was strange not seeing a whole bunch of people around the 18th green,” he said.
Streelman knew that an opportunity slipped away from him.
“It’s a little bit disappointing. I just played beautifully. That shot (for a birdie) on 17, I just don’t how it didn’t come down that hill. Literally a foot left and it’s a kick-in and maybe we’d have a chance at a playoff, but Dustin is playing beautifully. He’s obviously tough to compete with when he’s on top of his game,” Streelman said. “But I sure love this place. It’s very special for me to always get back here. It’s an honor to be a past champion, and plan to come back here for many more years to come.”
A few more putts on Friday or Saturday would have left Hughes with a chance to contend for the title but he finished strong with three birdies on the final four holes. His shot at the 17th hole went high to his left and curved down into the hole for a 48-foot birdie.
“I hit the putt on 17, and I mean, that was a putt that would just make people erupt, the way it was a pretty dramatic putt,” he said. “It broke 20 feet, went in with perfect speed. That would have been really exciting. Again, 18 would have been an amphitheater and it would have, again, kind of charged the crowd up again. Yeah, it was definitely different to hear crickets when you make some putts, but I was happy nonetheless.”
Hughes sank another long birdie put of 43.7 feet on 18, too.
“Those last two holes were a huge bonus,” he said. “The weekend was pretty frustrating for me. I felt like I was playing well enough to shoot some better scores, and just wasn’t quite happening for me.”
Gordon tying for third place with Hughes at 17-under 263 earned Gordon enough non-member FedExCup points to qualify for unlimited sponsor exemptions as a Special Temporary Member of the PGA Tour. By virtue of the top-10 finish, Gordon earns a spot into this week’s field at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He was previously in on a sponsor exemption.
After two strong rounds and the lead at the midway point of the tournament, two-time champion Phil Mickelson had a pair of one-under-par 71 to finish the tournament at 11-under par, 269, nine shots behind Johnson.
“I’m looking at this week as progress,” said Mickelson, who turned 50 earlier this month. “Certainly the goal is to win golf tournaments, but keep in mind I’ve missed a bunch of cuts. I haven’t played to the level I’ve wanted to, and this week I came in and had a lot of great finds. I hit a lot of good shots, hit a lot of good tee shots. My misses were much better. But it was a good week of progress. So I’m going to take this week off here, work on some things.”
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In his third start at the Travelers Championship, No. 1 Rory McIlroy closed with a 3-under 67 to finish tied for eleventh place at 13- under 267. It marks just the third occasion of finishing outside the top 10 this season (nine starts), with all three coming in Return to Golf events.
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It was a long road back for Johnson, who was tied for 79th after his first round score of 69. It was the lowest first round score by a Travelers Championship winner in 37 years since 1983.
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Johnson has now won at least one PGA Tour tournament in his first 13 years on the tour. The only players with more are Jack Nicklaus (17 from 1962-78), Arnold Palmer (17, 1955-71) and Tiger Woods (14, 1996-2009).
“Anytime you’re mentioned with those guys (Nicklaus, Woods, Palmer), you’ve got to feel good about that because they’re the best that’s ever played the game,” Johnson said. “Anytime you name is mentioned in the same sentence with them, I’m very happy.”
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It was announced on Sunday that the tournament has generated more than $1.6 million for charity this year. The 2021 Travelers Championship will be held June 21-27.
|Golfer 1R-2R-3R-4R Total|
|Dustin Johnson 69-64-61-67—261 (-19)|
|Kevin Streelman 66-66-63-67—262 (-18)|
|Will Gordon 66-62-71-64—263 (-17)|
|Mackenzie Hughes 60-68-68-67—263 (-17)|
|Kevin Na 66-66-65-67—264 (-16)
Other key golfers
Rory McIlroy 63-68-69-67—267 (-13)
Brendon Todd 66-65-61-75—267 (-13)
Phil Mickelson 64-63-71-71—269 (-11)