(Reuters) - Three weeks after putting his FedExCup playoff hopes on the back burner to perform best man duties at his brother’s wedding, Zach Johnson emerged as the best man standing at the weather-delayed BMW Championship on Monday.
Clutch birdie putts at the 16th and 17th helped Johnson close with a superb six-under-par 65 at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Illinois to clinch his 10th title on the PGA Tour by two shots.
It also lifted him to fourth in the FedExCup points standings heading into the season-ending Tour Championship taking place later this week in Atlanta where he can secure the eye-popping playoff bonus of $10 million with victory.
All of this came after Johnson opted to miss the opening playoff event of in the four-tournament series, The Barclays in New Jersey, due to a long-standing promise to support his brother, Gabe, at his wedding.
“You’re not going to miss your brother’s wedding, especially when you’re the best man,” a smiling Johnson told reporters after covering the back nine at Conway Farms in three-under 33 to keep his closest challengers at bay.
”I had zero intentions of missing that wedding, especially if I‘m going to get along with my new sister-in-law.
“But I planned for that. I scheduled accordingly. I played the Wyndham, which is a tremendous event, kind of an awkward date but a tremendous event.”
Johnson tied for fifth at the Wyndham Championship, then finished joint 27th at the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston two weeks later, sinking a 25-foot birdie putt on his final hole to earn a place on the United States Presidents Cup team.
”Big picture, it’s been a nice three weeks,“ said the 37-year-old American. ”Going into Boston, even though I had a week off, I felt good about it. I had one bad round in Boston. Technically a bad four-hole stretch that just took me out of it.
”When it comes to that putt ... my last hole at Boston, you know, I had zero indication as to what it meant. I was just playing. I think that’s what I’ve got to keep doing.
“It’s hard to grasp the last two weeks of golf because I was trying to make that Presidents Cup team without trying to make it. I was trying to get in the (FedExCup) top 30 this week without trying to make it.”
Johnson, whose only major victory came at the 2007 Masters, had not previously played at Conway Farms as a professional and decided to visit the par-71 course on a scouting trip last month in the company of his father and his brother.
”When we play golf courses year-in, year-out, you know what to expect ... but when it’s a new event, a new facility, you just want to get your feet on the grounds and get used to it,“ he explained. ”That’s all it really was for me.
“And we had a great day because the very next day was my brother’s wedding, so what better way to spend time with family,” added Johnson, a medium-length hitter who is renowned for his brilliant short game and generally accurate play.
That scouting trip helped pave the way for his 10th PGA Tour victory, an achievement even he found humbling given the extraordinary strength in depth in the modern game.
”It’s extremely difficult (to win),“ said Johnson. ”I‘m not so sure I fully grasp it. The depth and the parity we have on this tour, in the world, in the sport, is second to none.
“It’s just extremely difficult because everybody is playing at a high level, and there’s so many incentives to work and get better. I certainly take pride in the fact that I’ve done what I’ve done.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Atlanta; Editing by Frank Pingue