DJ Implodes On Back Nine To Blow RBC Heritage

The RBC Heritage is a tournament that annually provides some of the best Sunday drama on the PGA Tour despite its spot on the schedule.

While much of the golf world is in recovery mode following the first major championship of the season, Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina has performed in the drama department with each of the past seven winners of the event coming from at least two shots behind the 54-hole leader.

Unfortunately for current World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, he held the dubious distinction of being atop the Heritage leaderboard through three rounds. Holding a one-shot lead coming into Sunday, DJ played a rather mundane front nine, which featured a birdie, a bogey and seven pars to remain on 10-under par.

While others from the pack were crowding around him, DJ’s round went sideways on the par-4 11th hole. The hole asks for a draw off the tee, or at least a lesser club for the long-hitting Johnson. Failing to acquiesce to the hole’s request, the beginning of the end started there. 

Johnson would bogey Nos. 11, 12 and 13 in unspectacular fashion, and then double bogey the 13th and 14th holes to drop from 10-under par to 3-under par in the span of a little over an hour. Despite a birdie on the iconic 18th hole, DJ signed for a back-nine, 6-over par 41 and a 77 on the day, which was better than only one player who made the cut (defending champion Satoshi Kodaira shot 82)

While Johnson’s implosion can be attributed to fatigue from competing in five of the last six weeks — which resulted in four top-10 finishes — the Sunday tumble down the leaderboard is not a new phenomenon for the South Carolina native.

As The 15th Club’s Justin Ray pointed out, this is Johnson’s third 77 or worse in the final round of a PGA Tour event when holding a piece of the lead since 2010 — at the 2010 US Open and the 2017 WGC-HSBC. In the last 15 years, no one else has done it more than once.

Johnson was beaten by 10 strokes in the final round by eventual winner, C.T. Pan, who played the final three holes in 1-under par to best Matt Kuchar by a stroke.

There could be a litany of reasons for Johnson’s stumble on Sunday, it should be noted that while DJ’s third final-round blunder in the last nine years was not pretty, he’s also closed out five other 54-hole leads, including one this year at the WGC-Mexico Championship.

With the PGA Championship only three weeks away, Johnson has not committed to play in any events in the lead-up to the year’s second major championship.