BOLTON — The final moments of the LIV Golf Invitational Boston contained everything from a riveting golf playoff to an outrageous celebration.
Dustin Johnson narrowly avoided disaster in regulation on the par-5 18th . Forced to play the hole again in a playoff, Johnson channeled some inner magic.
In regulation, Johnson chose to lay up on the 18th hole — at least, that was the intent. His approach flew over the fairway, dropping next to the scoreboard and nestling against a tree.
“I felt like I hit a really good tee shot, took a bad bounce, just rolled in the rough,” said Johnson. “I was playing smart, just laying it up short left there, and caught a massive jumper and went up into the trees and made a really good five to get into the playoff.”
Johnson chipped back into the fairway, bumped a shot that ran uphill and sunk a short putt to save par and advance to the first playoff in LIV’s short history, facing off against Joaquin Niemann and Anirban Lahiri.
Prior to the playoff, LIV officials launched t-shirts into the crowd, with segments of the crowd booing when apparel ran out. Staff stood on each other’s shoulders and performed backflips.
LIV Golf commissioner Greg Norman grabbed Bud Lights, tossing them to fans. Pat Perez, Johnson’s teammate on 4 Aces GC, followed suit, lobbing free beers to patrons.
In the playoff, Johnson refocused and blasted a drive down the left side of the fairway before looping a fairway wood onto the green.
Boisterous chants of ‘DJ’ rang throughout the crowd as Johnson strolled up the fairway.
Johnson’s eagle putt weaved uphill and bounced up off the back of the cup, landing neatly in the hole to secure the win.
“I felt like we had a really good read on it,” said Johnson. “I might have hit it a little harder than I wanted to, but as soon as I hit it, I’m like, ‘Whoa,’ and then it was on a good line, and I’m like, ‘Hit the hole, hit the hole, hit the hole,’ and it went in somehow. I think the hole is indented for sure.”
A relieved, ear-to-ear smile spread as Johnson ferociously fist pumped as his brother and caddie, Austin, congratulated him with a massive, swinging high-five. Johnson greeted his wife, Paulina, with a hug and kiss, Facetiming his family before departing the green as an electronic dance remix of “Shipping Up To Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys rang from the speakers.
For as wild as the final stretch of golf proved to be, the ensuing celebration topped the athletic display.
Johnson stood atop a podium as pyrotechnics engulfed the stage, clutching his trophy as the crowd swooned.
“Definitely the fans,” said Johnson, asked on stage what makes this win so special. “All of the support, thank you all. I can feel it. Without the fans, it doesn’t make it as special.”
Before Johnson’s introduction, the youthful crowd gave Norman a raucous ovation. Majed Al Sorour, CEO of Saudi Golf Federation, was greeted with a plethora of cheers despite Saudi Arabia’s history of human rights violations. .
Team winners 4 Aces GC — Johnson, Perez, Talor Gooch, and Patrick Reed — took center stage next, dousing one another in champagne as streamers rained down and smoke enveloped the air. Perez had a GoPro attached to his champagne bottle, recording the party underway in front of him.
World famous DJ Diplo spun the after party, putting an exclamation point on an opulent coronation for the event’s winner, which fell in line with LIV’s slogan: “Golf, only louder.”
Not everyone gung-ho about shotgun start
After bogeying the first hole, Lahiri admitted that starting on different holes with a shotgun format provides a challenging wrinkle that playing the course in its intended order does not feature.
“This is something that all 48 of us are still dealing with, staying warm on the first shot, the first few shots,” said Lahiri. “So far I’ve had a soft five wood and a pitching wedge the first two rounds for my first shot. Today I had a driver and I had to fly it and from the rough I had to fly a five wood. Honestly, my body didn’t do what I was hoping or expecting it to do.”
Lahiri began his first round on the 172-yard, par-3 fourth hole and started his second round on the 352-yard, par-4 third hole. The 524-yard, par-4 first hole presents a different set of challenges due to its sloping fairway and uphill approach.
“The first hole and the fourteenth hole are two holes where if you make par, you carry on and count your blessings,” said Lahiri. “They play harder than some of the par fives.”
No putter, no problem for Wolff
Matthew Wolff, frustrated with a short missed putt that curled left of the cup, bent his putter beyond use and hurled the club into the woods. Wolff played the final two holes without his putter, finishing the round at even par and eight-under-par for the tournament.
Cam Kerry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.