The Punter's De-Brief: Prolific DJ strikes again to go second favourite for USPGA

Golfer Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson after his 21st PGA Tour win
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Dustin Johnson has won his 21st PGA Tour event and is a mover in the USPGA betting. Steve Rawlings looks back at Sunday's success at TPC River Highlands here...

“No winner has trailed by as far as DJ did after round one this year but he’s far from the first slow starter to win at River Highlands and Todd was the ninth 54-hole leader to get beat in 12 years so it’s definitely a place where we witness plenty of change.”

Dustin Johnson's situation looked pretty hopeless after round one of the Travelers Championship. Trailing the first-round leader, Mackenzie Hughes, by nine, the pre-event [30.0] chance sat in a tie for 79th after his one-under-par 69 on Thursday. He was matched at high of [190.0] and after a second round 64, he still sat six off the lead - trading at just fractionally less than he'd been before the off.

But his lowest ever round on the PGA Tour, Saturday's nine-under-par 61, saw him move up into second place. The 54-hole leader, Brendon Todd, who led by two, remained ahead of him in the market but it wasn't long before that changed on Sunday though...

Todd started the fourth round steadily, paring hole after hole and after back-to-back birdies on four and five, Johnson was level and odds-on for the title. DJ bogeyed the seventh to hand Todd the initiative again but that appeared to spark the winner into life again. He birdied eight, nine and ten to take control and when Todd made his first deviation from par on the 13th, with a catastrophic triple-bogey seven, his first dropped shot in 61 holes, it was DJ's to lose.

Having hit a low of [1.08], DJ then managed to make what should have been a straightforward canter to the winning line quite exciting. He hit his first tee-shot on the par five 13th out of bounds to the left of the fairway before avoiding the water right with his provisional by around ten feet.

To his credit, he went on to hole a seven-footer for a bogey six at 13 before birdying the 14th. It looked to be a done deal again but he then narrowly missed the drink off the 15th tee when his tee-shot plugged on the bank. Once again, his price spiked up from around [1.1] when he duffed his second shot but in typical DJ style, he nonchalantly got up-and-down for par before the horn went to suspend play with just three holes to go.

DJ on 15 at the travelers.jpg

Todd, who was a [450.0] chance before the off, had earlier hit a low of [2.52] and Kevin Streelman, a [360.0] poke before the off, hit a low of [3.0] as Dustin messed about with the lead. And DJ gave Streelman backers yet more hope when play resumed and he bogeyed the par three 16th to see his lead reduced to one but that was as close he was going to get. DJ casually parred the last two holes with the minimum of fuss to win his 21st PGA Tour title. He's now won at least once in the last 13 PGA Tour seasons. Johnson is now the second favourite to win next month's USPGA Championship, with only Rory McIlroy ahead of him in the betting.

My Bets

It's been a frustrating and poor week. Having backed both Mackenzie Hughes and Brendon Todd at huge prices in each of the first two weeks since the restart, it was obviously galling to see them contend this week.

Of my pre-event picks, Brooks Koepka withdrew before the off, Bubba Watson was disappointing, and my big outsiders never really contended. A poor third round cost Russell Henley any chance he had but Lucas Glover finished nicely to grab a tie for 20th, resulting in a tiny pay out for my top-20 wager.

My three in-play picks (In-Play Blog here) were all disappointing too and it's been a week to forget.

What Have We Learned This Week?

After the first round on Thursday, I signed off Friday morning's In-Play Blog with "if your picks have started slowly, I wouldn't give up on them just yet" and that turned out to be pretty apt!

No winner has trailed by as far as DJ did after round one this year but he's far from the first slow starter to win at River Highlands and Todd was the ninth 54-hole leader to get beat in 12 years so it's definitely a place where we witness plenty of change.

Johnson was the only player to go odds-on this year but his price fluctuated greatly on the back-nine and the course makes for an interesting finish most years. The par five 13th has water in-play off the tee right and OB left and the drivable par four 15th is a horrible little hole. At less than 300 yards long, it looks so straightforward but it's anything but, and the winner was fortunate not to be wet off the tee there yesterday.

All week long there were only five eagles made on the 15th and although it averaged below par at 3.9, it's far from the given pick-up hole its yardage suggests it might be. There were 68 bogeys and 15 double-bogeys or worse made there throughout the week.

The PGA Tour moves from Connecticut to Michigan this week for the second edition of the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit and I'll be back tomorrow with the preview.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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