Dustin Johnson rattled in a monster eagle putt at the first playoff hole to win the LIV Golf Invitational Boston, upstaging the raft of newcomers to the breakaway circuit.
Johnson emerged triumphant from a three-way playoff that also featured Chile’s Joaquin Niemann and India’s Anirban Lahiri, both making their debuts in the series.
All three finished 54 holes at International Golf Club on 15 under par.
World No 2 and reigning Open champion Cameron Smith finished a shot back on 14 under in his LIV Golf debut, tying for fourth with England’s Lee Westwood, who charged into contention with an eight-under-par 62 but bogeyed his last hole to miss the playoff.
South African Louis Oosthuizen finished on 10 under, with countryman Branden Grace a further shot behind.
Johnson carded a five-under-par 65 on Sunday, his sixth birdie of the day at the 13th putting him atop the leaderboard at 15 under.
He wouldn’t make another birdie, however, needing par saves at the par-three 17th and 18th to make the playoff.
Johnson didn’t hold back on his playoff putt, sending it racing up the hill. The ball hesitated when it hit the lip, then hit the back edge of the cup and bounced in.
— LIV Golf (@LIVGolfInv) September 4, 2022
“Yeah, it was going a little fast, but it was a good line,” said Johnson, adding he felt the 18th “owed me one” after his second shot in regulation ended up in the underbrush alongside the giant scoreboard behind the green.
Lahiri was first in the clubhouse on 15 under, and could have sealed the win at his final hole of regulation, the 18th, where his six-foot eagle putt circled the cup but didn’t drop.
His six under 64 featured an eagle and six birdies, but after finding the fairway at the first playoff hole, he missed the green with his second shot.
He chipped to five feet for a birdie chance only for Johnson to seal the win.
Niemann booked his playoff spot with his fifth birdie of regulation at the 18th. But his tee shot in the playoff hit a spectator before settling in the right rough, and he was in a greenside bunker from there.
Johnson, who finished eighth in the inaugural LIV Golf event in London, fourth in Portland and third at Bedminster, became the first American to lift the individual trophy in the series.
He pocketed a $4-million first prize along with $750,000 as his share of the team first prize for his 4 Aces outfit, which finished two strokes better than Lahiri’s Crushers.
Johnson said he was happy to be a part of what he sees as an exciting new venture.
He said the money on the line made for plenty of competitive tension, despite the freewheeling atmosphere.
“Especially with that check that you get – you can feel it,” Johnson said.
American Pat Perez, who claimed the most recent of his three PGA Tour titles in 2018, has reaped the rewards of the 4 Aces’ three team victories so far, earning $750,000 for each.
He had a succinct answer for critics who say LIV Golf’s tournaments amount to exhibitions.
“Exhibition match don’t pay $4.75m,” Perez said.
© Agence France-Presse