Fresh off his team’s last – and most important – team victory of 2022, 4 Aces Captain Dustin Johnson was asked in late October to sum up his own individual season. “Pretty good,” he replied, before adding, “I feel like it should’ve been a lot better.”
Reminder: DJ was LIV Golf’s inaugural Individual Champion in 2022, and the race wasn’t even that close. So, was he serious about it just being "pretty good"? Or was he being cheeky? With DJ, it’s sometimes hard to tell. But based on pure numbers – not the least of which was his collective prize earnings (nearly $36 million, including bonuses and team portions) in his eight starts – the two-time major champion had a widely successful season, even if he does think there’s room for improvement.
He teed it up for all 21 stroke-play rounds during the regular season, plus another stroke play round in the final of the Miami Team Championship, in which all four scores counted for the only time during the season. Of those 22 stroke-play rounds, he was a collective 65 under, recording 19 rounds under par, two rounds at even par, and just a single round over par. (He also won his only match-play round, 5 & 3, over Shergo Al Kurdi in the Miami semifinals.)
Which stroke-play round was his best? I’ve ranked each one from 1 to 22, factoring in scores, stats, degree of importance, comparison against the field and outcome. Maybe your list is different. That’s OK. The bottom line is that it was a heckuva performance for DJ in 2022 – and there’s every reason to think 2023 will be more of the season.
Fresh off his playoff win in Boston two weeks earlier, DJ celebrated with his most complete and stress-free round of the season, a bogey-free opening 63 at Rich Harvest Farms that included nine birdies and a front-nine 30. It was his best round relative to par, and tied for his lowest score of the season. The irons were on fire, as he hit 17 greens in regulation. Oh, and he only needed 25 putts to open up a three-shot lead over Cameron Smith.
Yes, his score in the previous round at The International was two strokes lower. But this was his finest final-round score – and it set up his lone individual win of the season. Six birdies, one bogey to reach the three-man playoff against Anirban Lahiri and Joaquin Niemann. And if we’re counting 19 holes, then add his walk-off eagle from long range, arguably the top moment of the year, to win the playoff in spectacular fashion.
Tied for 10th after the first round, Johnson moved into contention with this 63 that equals his lowest score of the year. He was 1 over through his first three holes before playing the next 12 holes in 9 under (one eagle, seven birdies). The key club was his putter, as he required a season-low 22 putts. Sihwan Kim, who had shot an 87 the day before, was the only player who could match DJ’s 63 on this day.
It wasn’t even his team’s low score on the day – Patrick Reed shot a 64 – but DJ's opening round at Trump National Bedminster set the tone for his eventual runner-up finish to champion Henrik Stenson. He hit 17 greens in his round, highlighted by a memorable shot off the cart path on the 9th hole.
The last of his three bogey-free rounds on the year, as he hit 16 greens at Royal Greens to move up nine spots on the leaderboard. If his putter had been a bit warmer – he needed 29 putts – it would’ve been more memorable.
The second of his back-to-back 68s at Pumpkin Ridge was the more electric of the two. His eight birdies tied for the second most of any round he shot during the season, and it moved him to the top of the leaderboard.
He started his opening round at Pumpkin Ridge on the 18th hole … and promptly bogeyed. The next 17 holes? Bogey-free with five birdies. It wasn’t a great display off the tee, as he hit just 46% of the fairways, but it was the second-lowest score of any player in the field that day, and it set the tone for the first of the 4 Aces’ four consecutive wins.
DJ started the final round at Stonehill in a rare position – outside the top 24 point-getters (he was 27th, his season-low on the leaderboard). But he played his way into points with a bogey-free round highlighted by his eagle at the par-5 17th. His driving-distance average was 327 yards.
Might’ve been the most mentally challenging round of the season for DJ. He was paired with Cameron Smith, who was head and shoulders above everybody else that day at Trump National Doral. And after making the turn at 1 over, DJ knew he had to turn things around it on the final nine holes. He did just that, playing the back nine in a bogey-free 3 under (to Smith’s 4 under in that stretch). Only Smith and Jason Kokrak posted lower scores among the 16 players. More important for DJ, the 4 Aces won by a stroke to claim the $16 million top prize.
The opening round was his highest score during his win at The International, but it was still impressive, with seven birdies against two bogeys and a double. It was really a tale of three different stretches, as he played the first eight holes in 4 under, then the next six holes in 4 over before finishing with three birdies in his last four holes.
Starting the final round at Trump National Bedminster in second place, DJ promptly opened with a bogey. But from there, his last 17 holes were a bogey-free 4 under. He ended the round with a birdie at the par-5 18th, elevating him into a tie for second with Matthew Wolff behind winner Henrik Stenson. Wolff won the points tiebreaker due to a better final-round score (64 to DJ’s 68), but the money was shared for second and third. In essence, that last birdie was worth more than $300,000 for DJ.
Just two other players shot better scores than DJ that Saturday in Bedminster – 4 Aces teammate Talor Gooch (64) and Turk Pettit (67). It was a workmanlike round, with four birdies (including both par 5s on the back nine) and two bogeys. It also moved him for 4th to 2nd on the leaderboard behind eventual champion Henrik Stenson
Starting the final round of the regular season in 7th place, DJ needed a low score to catch the leaders. But he opened with a bogey and struggled to get any traction. He was even par on the day through 15 holes, but a birdie-eagle-par finish gave him a backdoor top 5, two strokes out of the playoff between Smash GC teammates Brook Koepka (the eventual winner) and Peter Uihlein.
On a course in which DJ has prior success, his opening round at Royal Greens was not the fast start he was seeking. Through 13 holes, he was even par, and had already suffered a double bogey at the par-3 8th. He managed to finish with two birdies in his final five holes, but 15 other players shot better scores, led by Brooks Koepka’s 62. Ultimately, it would be too much of a hill to climb.
DJ admittedly was nervous when he struck the opening tee shot at the Centurion Club. He had reason to be – it will go down as the first shot struck on hole No. 1 in LIV Golf history. "A new chapter in golf," DJ said just before making that historic swing. Alas, that was about the only memorable thing in his round, as he roller-coasted his way to a 69 that left him tied for seventh.
Coming off his lone over-par round of the season, DJ still was in striking distance of eventual winner Cameron Smith entering the final day at Rich Harvest Farms. But he opened with a bogey for the second consecutive day, and then finished the front nine with consecutive bogeys. He tried to crawl back into contention, but his putter wasn’t cooperative and ultimately he finished three shots behind the winner, tying Peter Uihlein for second (and finishing third in points due to the tiebreaker).
With DJ’s power, he’s supposed to dominate the par 5s, right? Indeed, he was 39 under on the par 5s this season, tying teammate Patrick Reed for the best in that category. His first hole at Stonehill was certainly promising, as he birdied the par-5 second to start his round. But on the other three par 5s? Par, bogey, bogey. He played holes 10-18 at 2 over, essentially shooting himself out of the tournament, as he finished the day in 20th place.
Starting his round on the par-4 third, DJ bogeyed three of his first four holes. He battled from there, and his eagle at the par-5 15th got him to 1 under before a late bogey left him at even par for the day. It was a solid ball-striking round (62% fairways, 78% greens) but the flatstick was a no-go (32 putts, the most he would record in a single round during the season).
The first two rounds at Stonehill were identical scores and nearly identical stat lines, and also followed a nearly similar path – promising early (he was 4 under through 11), then fading as he finished. Unlike the previous day, DJ at least held his own on the par 5s. The reason this round is ranked lower than the first round? Thirty players bested DJ’s 70 in the second round, his second-worst performance versus the field all season (31 players bested DJ’s 73 in the second round in Chicago).
In terms of individual final-round disappointments, this likely was his worst. He started the day as the co-leader with Carlos Ortiz but bogeyed two of his first four holes, opening the door for Branden Grace, who shot 65 to win. DJ failed to take advantage of the three par 5s, parring each one, and eventually finished third. But it wasn’t a total loss, as his 4 Aces celebrated the first of four consecutive team wins (thanks mostly to Patrick Reed’s 67 and Talor Gooch’s 68).
DJ opened his final round at the Centurion Club with a birdie – the only one he’d record all day. Yes, he did eagle the par-5 13th but offset the good stuff with three bogeys. Perhaps the most shocking development is that he hit just 2 of 13 fairways, ranking last in the field in driving accuracy. Starting the day in fifth, he finished in eighth place. He’d finish no lower than fourth in each of his next four starts.
Look at the previous 21 rounds on this list. What’s different about this one? It’s the only round all season in which DJ shot over par. Two birdies, three bogeys at Rich Harvest Farms. He started the day as the tournament leader – thanks to his best round of the season – and only dropped to second afterwards despite the 10-shot negative swing. But it opened the door for Cameron Smith to win in just his second LIV start.