The Punter's De-Brief: DJ puts China crisis behind him in style

Dustin Johnson – winner of the Sentry TOC
Dustin Johnson – winner of the Sentry TOC
Join today View market

World number one, Dustin Johnson, has sauntered to success at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and our man has looked back at all the action here...

“Dustin Johnson was very much an archetypal Sentry TOC winner. He was a former champion (2013), with the most course experience in the field, he’s American (the last eight winners have all been American), he was up with the pace all the way, he ranked number one for Scrambling and he had the best Putting Average in the field for the week.”

Having blown a six-stroke 54-hole lead in China at the end of October, Dustin Johnson went into the fourth and final round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii with a two-stroke lead and something to prove yesterday. He shot a spectacular eight-under-par 64 and won by eight!

In his own words, he thinned this tee-shot on the par four 12th but joking aside, his performance was sensational.


DJ is famed for his horizontal demeanor, but he must have had some thoughts about the crash in China so to go out and shoot the best round of the week by the entire field just when it mattered most was praiseworthy indeed. The world number one began the week trading between [9.0] and [10.0], he was a [6.0] chance when trailing Marc Leishman by two after round one, a [4.0] shot when just a stroke adrift at halfway and he was trading at around [1.6] with a two-stroke lead before round four.

The only other player to trade relatively short was my sole pre-tournament pick, Brian Harman, who hit a high of [60.0] before the off, but he didn't go any lower than [3.1] when he hit the front during the third round on Saturday. Harman couldn't live with Johnson and he ended up finishing third, a stroke behind the runner-up, Jon Rahm.

My Bets

As detailed in the In-Play Blog, the bulk of my trading was done on Saturday. That went well and it's nice to have gotten off to a profitable start to the year but as always, I like to look back and analyse how I've played it and not backing DJ much earlier than I did now looks like a mistake. On the other hand, laying Harman at an average of [3.5] worked out well so I can't complain.

What Have We Learned for Next Year?

Dustin Johnson was very much an archetypal Sentry TOC winner. He was a former champion (2013), with the most course experience in the field, he's American (the last eight winners have all been American), he was up with the pace all the way, he ranked number one for Scrambling and he had the best Putting Average in the field for the week.

Defending champ, Justin Thomas, who was without the services of his normal caddie, Jimmy Johnson, over the weekend, was the only man to hit the ball further than DJ and the winner's prestigious length was clearly advantageous (see above tee-shot!) but being long off the tee isn't imperative here and I wouldn't give it as much credence as putting and scrambling. Harman is far from a big hitter and he competed well enough for much of the week.

Nb. Johnson is suffering with plantar fasciitis and he'll be taking a few weeks off while that clears up. Phil Mickelson's old caddie, Jim 'Bones' Mackay, will be on the bag when Thomas defends his Sony Open title this week.

I noticed or reaffirmed a few things while trading this week. The finish at Kapalua is very scorable and those that finish their rounds earlier than others tend to trade a bit too short early in the tournament.

Jordan Spieth gave himself too much to do on Thursday (more on that below) before recovering nicely in round two but he traded way too short on Friday. The Open Champion hit a single-figure price after back-to-back birdies on 14 and 15 saw him move to within touching distance of the leaders but by the end of the day he sat five adrift in a tie for 13th. It's very easy to get sucked in to a big move on the back-nine at Kapalua and it's important to bear in mind that the leaders are also likely to pick up shots on the back-nine.

For the second year running at Kapalua, Spieth started tardily, and I'm not convinced playing with his best pal, Justin Thomas, is much of a plus. Spieth shot 75 on Thursday and his partner, Thomas, shot 71.

Early in their careers, Spieth was the man to beat and on the first eight occasions they were paired together Spieth recorded the best score six times but they've now been paired together 23 times in total and Thomas holds the advantage. Twice the pair have scored the same, Spieth has bettered Thomas 11 times and Thomas has come out on top 12 times and it might just be something to look out for going forward. On the last 15 occasions they've been paired together, Spieth has bettered Thomas just four times and I'd be amazed if he had a worse record with any other player. Does playing with his mate take off a bit of the competitive edge? The stats suggest it might.

We've got lots of golf to look forward to this week with three tournaments live on Sky and I'll be back with my previews of the Sony Open, the BMW South African Open and the EurAsia Cup over the next couple of days.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

Join today View market

Discover the latest articles