KAPALUA, Hawaii: Zach Johnson started the new year the same way he ended the last one.
Johnson pulled away with three straight birdies on the back nine at Kapalua and closed with a 7-under 66 for a one-shot victory over Jordan Spieth in the Tournament of Champions on Monday.
Johnson didn’t need any heroics, like holing out from a drop zone on the last hole when he beat Tiger Woods in the World Challenge last month in California. This was mainly about chipping and putting, and Johnson is among the best.
He hit a wedge to 8 feet for birdie on the 14th to take the outright lead for the first time. Facing a dangerous shot up a steep slope to a green with a false front, Johnson caught it perfectly on the 15th for an easy birdie. And he hit wedge to 5 feet for a third straight birdie that gave him control.
Spieth, who had a one-shot lead going to the back nine, birdied his last two holes for a 69.
“I just picked it apart,” said Johnson, who finished at 19-under 273. “I didn’t deviate from anything I typically do on a golf course.”
Webb Simpson, tied with Spieth and defending champion Dustin Johnson to start the final round, never caught up and closed with a 70. He tied for third with Kevin Streelman, who had a 67.
Jason Dufner was four strokes back in fifth after a 69.
Dustin Johnson made three bogeys before making his first birdie. He shot 73 and tied for sixth.
Zach Johnson might finally get some of the credit he deserves as among the elite in golf, even though he doesn’t have the raw power of his peers. This was the 11th win of his career. Since his rookie season in 2004, only Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh have won more PGA Tour events.
It also was his third win in his last six starts, dating to the BMW Championship north of Chicago in September that qualified him for the winners-only event in Kapalua.
Spieth was playing in the final group for the first time and looked poised as ever.