(Reuters) - Dustin Johnson secured a three-shot victory at the Tour Championship to claim his first FedExCup title and a $15 million payday on Monday as he capped a PGA Tour season that saw him return to the top of the world rankings.
The final event of the 2019-20 PGA Tour campaign looked poised for a drama-free finish with Johnson starting the day having a five-stroke cushion at East Lake Golf Club.
But the 36-year-old American needed almost all of it, carding a final round two-under 68 to fend off 2017 FedExCup champion Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele, who both closed on four-under 66.
Johnson, who began the week at 10-under as a result of the Tour Championship’s FedExCup scoring system, finished with a winning total of 21-under 269 to earn his 23rd career title and third this season, all coming after the COVID-19 restart.
Having narrowly missed out on the FedExCup title four years ago when Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy pipped Kevin Chappell and Ryan Moore in a three-man playoff at the Tour Championship, Johnson, who rarely speaks about his goals, did not hide the fact that winning it was a career objective.
Certainly Johnson played like a man on a mission, finishing first, second and first in the three playoff events.
"I wanted to be a FedExCup champion. It was something in my career I would like to be and today I got the FedExCup," said Johnson. "I'm very proud of the way I played, I played really good especially the last four tournaments."
The only thing Johnson did not win this season was a major title although he came close by finishing runner-up at last month's PGA Championship.
But because of a schedule shakeup created by the COVID-19 outbreak, there are still two golf majors to be contested before the end of 2020, the Masters in November and the U.S. Open from Sept. 17-20 at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York where Johnson is sure to be the red-hot favourite.
"I am probably playing the best I have ever played," said Johnson. "I really feel like everything is dialed in.
"I just have a lot of confidence in every part of my game right now."
Johnson's game was firing on all cylinders when final round action got underway as he picked up three birdies over the first six holes.
But back-to-back bogeys at seven and eight opened the door for Thomas and Schauffele on the back nine as Johnson's lead was trimmed to three.
Schauffele upped the pressure with birdies at 11 and 12 to chop another stroke off Johnson's advantage while Thomas did the same with birdie at 16.
But Johnson would not rattle, with the world number one carding eight straight pars on the back nine before closing with one final birdie at 18.
"I had a lot of great players right behind me and they played some good golf today and it got pretty close there at the end which is what I thought it would be," said Johnson.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Ken Ferris)