Johnson triumphs at The Barclays

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Dustin Johnson carded a six-under-par 65 to win The Barclays – an event shortened by a round to avoid Hurricane Irene.

Big-hitting American Dustin Johnson carded a six-under-par 65 to claim his first PGA Tour title of the year at The Barclays on Saturday.

The event, shortened to 54 holes, started much earlier than usual to avoid the approaching Hurricane Irene.

The 27-year-old from South Carolina finished at 19-under over the three rounds to win by two shots from defending champion Matt Kuchar, a fellow American who was the overnight leader and his playing partner.

Brandt Snedeker signed for the round of the day – a stunning 10-under-par 61 – to finish three shots off the pace and joint third with Fiji’s Vijay Singh (68).

Johnson shot a second consecutive front-nine 29 at the rain-softened Plainfield Country Club to seal the victory and the No 1 spot in the FedEx Cup standings.

With the weather very much a factor, it was decided that the event would be reduced from 54 to 36 holes if the skies darkened too quickly, which would have made Kuchar, who led by one shot after the second round, the winner.

At one stage that eventuality seemed likely, but the rain held off just long enough for Johnson and the rest of the field to complete their third rounds.

“We got lucky,” Johnson told pgatour.com. “The weather held up for us long enough.”

While 125 players made it through to the first round of the FedEx Cup this week, only the top 100 would qualify for the next leg, creating a lot of excitement on the leaderboard.

Ian Poulter birdied four of his last five holes to sneak into the top 100, along with seven others.

William McGirt, who qualified 125th for the event, birdied the 17th to move himself up to 99th.

McGirt got some advice from his wife out on the course, who flashed the number 101 with her fingers on the 17th hole to indicate to him where he would finish. He knew he had to go for it with his iron, and that’s just what he did, producing the “best swing I made all week, bar none” for a five-footer for birdie.

A T-13th finish for Padraig Harrington lifted him from 124th to 80th.

Ernie Els shot a final-round 67 to move from 118th to 99th. Had the tournament been reduced to 36 holes, he would have been eliminated.

“You’re trying to survive. It’s desperation,” Els said. “It’s sadistic. In a way it’s fun, if you’re into that (stuff).”

Back at the top, the race for top prize soon became a two-horce race between Johnson and Kuchar, with Johnson striking first with two birdies on the opening two holes to take the lead.

Kuchar responded with a birdie on the par-three third, while Johnson bogeyed the same hole for a two-shot swing. That soon changed to a two-shot swing the other way as Johnson holed out for an eagle on the par-five fourth.

They then matched each other birdie for birdie on the fifth, seventh and ninth holes, with Kuchar catching up with a birdie of his own on 11.

But after that Johnson took control, or rather Kuchar surrendered it with consecutive bogeys at 12 and 13. The two-shot deficit would prove too much to overcome.

“Sunday tendencies are to come up a little short, and I gave it a little extra,” Kuchar said. “Very frustrating because I feel like that’s the strong part of my game.”

Johnson is now the leading 20-something American golfer on Tour, with his fifth win lifting him to a tally that outstrips any of his peers.

The FedEx Cup continues next week with the Deutsche Bank Championship and Johnson in pole position in the race toward the $10 million first prize.

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