By Jay Betsill
The Northern Trust at Glen Oaks in Old Westbury began the week as the first round of the FedEx Cup playoffs and ended in a playoff of its own between Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson.
Spieth began the day with a three shot lead and had it up to five shots at one point, but Johnson roared back on the back nine to tie for the lead before ultimately winning on the first playoff hole. This was Johnson’s first win since his back injury when he fell down the stairs the day before the first round of the Masters.
The battle between the PGA Tour’s best putter (Spieth) and best driver (Johnson) ironically came down to Johnson draining a 17-foot putt for par on the final hole of regulation to extend the action. Johnson’s clutch putt came on the heels of Spieth making an 18-footer on the 17th hole to remain in a tie atop the leader board.
“Jordan is a tough competitor and he played really well all day,” Johnson told CBS Sports following his win. “I felt like I played really good today. On the front nine, I couldn’t hole a putt, I hit really good putts the whole time, burning the edges and finally rolled in a couple of putts on 9 and 10.
“It was nice in the playoff here,” Johnson continued. “The wind kind of switched so I could cover the water, so it was a little bit easier coming in with a 60-degree here on 18, then I hit a great shot in there within three feet.”
Spieth fired a closing 69, but it was the first time in six instances where he has held a two shot lead after 54 holes that he failed to close with a win.
“I didn’t lose the tournament,” Spieth said. “He won it.”
This was Spieth’s first top-10 finish since he won the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in July.
The top 100 players in the FedEx Cup standings advance to next week’s Dell Technologies Championship at TPC Boston.
With his victory in The Northern Trust, Johnson takes over the top spot in the FedEx Cup followed by Spieth, Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama and Jon Rahm.
Bubba Watson shot 70 on Sunday to move into the top 100 and became one of eight players to qualify for the second leg of the playoffs in all 11 years of its existence.