Dustin Johnson just looks like he's playing with no pulse. Beneath his stoic stare and boast as he walked the East Lake fairways, his nerves were in a mess on Monday because it meant so much to him.
The $ 15 million prize for winning the FedEx Cup? That would get everyone's attention, especially someone who thought they were rich when Johnson took his first tournament check as a PGA Tour rookie for $ 113,571.
But there was more.
"Definitely prestige," said Johnson after delivering an important par putt and consistent play on the track for a 2-under-68 win and a 3-shot win in the Tour Championship.
“Being the FedEx Cup Champion is something I really wanted to do. I wanted to hold that trophy at the end of the day, ”said Johnson. "It was something I wanted to achieve in my career."
He did it by taking his step at just the right time.
He won two of the three FedEx Cup postseason events and lost in one playoff to a 65-foot putt in the other. It all came down to the last day of the finals and even with a five-shot margin it was never easy.
Xander Schauffele and Justin Thomas each scored three shots on the top nine. They each came within two strokes of Johnson with two holes to play. He never let them catch him and his only birdie the back nine on the final hole gave him his third win since June and the 23rd of his PGA Tour career.
"It's a very difficult trophy to win," said Johnson. “I controlled my own destiny, but I still had to play well. I had a lot of great players right behind me. In the end it got tight. I knew it was going to come down the track and I would have to take a few golf strokes. "
None was bigger than the 20-foot par putt on the 13th hole to hold their lead on three strokes, the 5-iron safe on the green at the hardest hole on East Lake, another 5-iron over the water the par 3 15th – the one hole in which large numbers lurk – and a wedge from a deep bunker onto the green on the 16th.
“This is a tough golf course. No lead is safe, ”said Johnson. "The guys gave me a good fight today."
Johnson became the first No. 1 seed in the Tour Championship to win the FedEx Cup since Tiger Woods in 2009. Now he has his name engraved on the silver trophy alongside some of the best of his generation, starting with Woods and most recently Rory McIlroy, with Hall of Famers, great champions and former world no. 1 players in between.
Schauffele, who tends to bring his best golf game to the big moments, cut the lead down to two strokes when they both had to fight for par on the 13th. Schauffele missed his par putt from 25 feet and Johnson rammed him in.
"He's here to win the tournament," said Schauffele, who finished with a 66 and had the lowest 72-hole score in the tournament at 265. I did not. That was a high point. "
On the 17th Thomas made a bogey from a wild tee shot to the right. Schauffele also had to crawl on the 17th and escaped with par after a tee shot into the bunker. And on the par 5-18 course, Johnson unleashed a drive that began along the pine trees to the left and faded gently towards the center of the fairway.
That brought out a birdie from the front bunker, a hug with Brother Austin, his caddy, and a trophy he had long wanted.
Johnson was used five strokes ahead at 19 under par-9 under his own score and started the tournament 10 under as number 1 in the FedEx Cup. He finished under at 21.
Schauffele and Thomas finished second, earning $ 4.5 million each.
Number 2 Jon Rahm finished on a 66, finished fourth, and earned $ 3 million. Preparing to start his rookie year a year ago, Scottie Scheffler had a 66-65 finish and finished fifth for a payout of $ 2.5 million.
And so ended the weirdest season on the PGA Tour, which apart from the $ 15 million awarded to Johnson, $ 14 million and the deferred $ 1 million, didn't feel like the end at all.
The new season starts on Thursday. Two majors remain to be played.
Golf was closed for three months and when it restarted Johnson was No. 111 in the FedEx Cup. He won the Travelers Championship. He followed up with a pair of 80s at the Memorial and a 78s at the 3M Open in Minnesota before retiring because he wasn't feeling quite right.
Since then, he seems to be the greatest talent in golf.
"I played with him at the Memorial and I never saw him lost anywhere near that lost," said Thomas. “He played so badly and played so badly. But he never gave up. He was just trying to find out there and he couldn't find it again for the next week, and next he's the FedEx Cup champion two months later.
"I think that's all you need to know about golf."
In four tournaments in a row against the best fields, he had the 54-hole three times and was tied in the other. He turned one into an 11-shot win. He lost to a 65 from Collin Morikawa in the PGA Championship and to a 65-foot putt from Rahm in the BMW Championship.
He wanted the last one and even put a five-shot lead on par at East Lake, it was never easy.
It's rare for Johnson.
But he's back on top and with a trophy he really wanted. Next up is the US Open in Winged Foot in two weeks, a tough course that Johnson loves. The masters are yet to come. The celebration can wait until the holidays. He wants to go on.
"I play well. I have a lot of confidence in the game," he said. "I'm really looking forward to the next few months."