OAKVILLE, Ont. — As he walked off the picturesque 11th green after making a nine-footer for birdie, Dustin Johnson side-fived the awaiting fans, and one of them captured the moment pretty accurately: “It’s too easy for you, buddy.”
The World No. 1 sure did make it look that way.
Sitting beside that shiny silver Canadian Open trophy a couple hours later, Johnson looked relaxed and casual like he always does, a quality only enhanced by his southern drawl.
He evaluated his errant drive on 16, which landed in the left rough, like so: “Yeah,” he said with a shrug, throwing out a hand to dismiss it, “that was a bad drive.”
Then he added, “I hit a good one on 18.”
He did. That final drive travelled 370 yards, and by that point, Johnson’s third victory of the season was very much in the bag.
On Sunday at Glen Abbey GC, Johnson got it done, securing his first-ever win at the RBC Canadian Open with a filthy four-day total of 23-under-par, bettering anyone else in the field by three strokes.
And yes, he had more than a few congratulatory texts on his phone from his father-in-law, Wayne, afterwards.
“I get a lot of support from Wayne, and I know he’s definitely very pleased that I’ve won the Canadian Open,” Johnson said.
At last. Twice the groomsman here in Canada, with second-place finishes in 2016 and 2013, Johnson began the day in a three-way tie at -17, and even though this is golf and anything can happen, you’d have to be a bit of a fool to bet against the World No. 1 to close the deal.
Johnson was looking for win No. 19 on Tour, and win No. 1 in Canada, the birthplace of his long-time fiancé (Paulina was watching at home with their sons, River and Tatum) and his more famous than famous father-in-law (there was no sign of Wayne Gretzky here).
A couple times Sunday, fans broke out in a singing of ‘O Canada.’ Johnson heard them, loud and clear.
“I definitely feel like an honourary Canadian,” he said, grinning.
While he began the day in a tie with Whee Kim and Byeong Hun An and Kevin Tway, even if there was a teeny tiny bit of doubt that this tournament was his, Johnson dashed it out of the gate. He started Sunday’s round: birdie, birdie. He was the day’s solo leader from No. 1 on, with a final six-under-66 on championship Sunday.
“I knew if I could get off to a good start and continue to play well, I just needed to get out in front,” he said. “If I could get ahead, I felt like I could play well and keep myself in the lead for the rest of the day, which I did.”
Canada’s own Mackenzie Hughes was, for the second year in a row, the top Canadian here, with an impressive T8 finish. Hughes was on a good roll early Sunday, four-under through seven, but carded a couple bogies and couldn’t birdie a couple gettable Par 5s coming home, finishing with a 68.
“After that front nine, it kind of got the crowd going,” said Hughes, “and I thought if I could keep the momentum going, I could at least post a number to scare Dustin.”
Dustin, well, he didn’t scare.
His playing partner, An, who finished in a tie for second at 20-under-par, joked that the hundreds of fans were there for him. “But seeing the number one in the world playing golf is quite exciting,” An said, “and he’s pretty good.”
To have Johnson win the Canadian Open is certainly better than pretty good for this tournament going forward, too. With a new date set for 2019—the week before the U.S. Open, instead of the week after the Open Championship, which isn’t exactly favourable—the expectation is that the field will only improve.
“It’s a big event for Canada,” Johnson said. “It’s a big event for me. Every win is very special, but this one is definitely a little bit more special.”
Johnson’s win is also likely the end of an era: For the last four years, the Canadian Open has been played at Glen Abbey, this track Jack Nicklaus designed with the idea that it would serve as the permanent host. But with owners ClubLink having proposed the site for development, it’s very, very likely that this was the last we’ve seen of the Canadian Open on this track. Johnson certainly thinks so.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s never going to be back here, so it was big for me to get the win here,” he said. “I like this golf course a lot. I felt like I’ve been so close here a couple times. So to get it done here, knowing there were four of us tied for the lead, I knew I was going to have to go out and play a good round of golf if I wanted to win. For me to come out and play really solid, play the way I did, I’m very proud of that and I’m very pleased with the win.”
It took nearly two hours longer than anyone expected, on account of a weather delay that hit just after Johnson ripped his drive down the fairway on No. 9.
Some fans definitely passed that delay time with more beer, and there were a few rowdy spirits following Johnson Sunday. On No. 11, the first hole in the valley that starts with a tee shot up top and a green in the valley, a cop on a bike warned one of the security guards to look out for a guy in a sombrero, and “the one dressed like Wayne’s World.” They weren’t exactly difficult to spot.
This didn’t seem to distract Johnson, though.
“I had a lot of support out there, lots of fans following me with my ties to Canada, with Paulina and her dad being Wayne Gretzky, it definitely helps,” he said. “I get a lot of fans that pull for Wayne, they pull for me. So it was a lot of fun out there this week. I thought I had a lot of support. It definitely helps. It’s a lot of fun to play out there for a big crowd.”
The crowd was biggest waiting for him at the 18th green. Following that sweet drive on the final hole, Johnson striped his approach to 11 feet, for a look at eagle. Then came the “Let’s go DJ!” *clap-clap, clap-clap-clap* cheers from the gallery.
He missed, the fans sighed (some even swore), and then they cheered as the World No. 1 tapped in for birdie.
Johnson grabbed his ball out of the hole, and then casually threw up a hand in celebration, while hundreds cheered. Then he smiled, holding that big trophy.
He sure did make it look easy.