BEDMINSTER, New Jersey – A week ago, Bryson DeChambeau won LIV Golf Greenbrier by becoming only the second player ever to shoot a 12-under 58 in the final round, and his closing 61-59-119 over the final two rounds set a major pro golf record for 36 holes. It was an unprecedented birdie binge that was not to everyone’s liking.
Dustin Johnson is one of the top players in the world, but he hated the setup at Greenbrier, where he finished 32nd. What a difference a week makes. The LIV Golf tour arrived at the 7,524-yard, par-71 Bedminster Golf Club owned by former president Donald Trump, and Johnson found his comfort zone, shooting a 3-under par 68 for a third-place tie with Patrick Reed behind leader Cam Smith at 66 and second-place Charles Howell III at 67. Johnson was part of a dynamic threesome that included DeChambeau and defending Bedminster champion Henrik Stenson that led off the shotgun start from hole No. 1.
Trump walked the course with that group for the first three holes followed by an entourage that included one of the attorneys representing him in separate indictments for concealing top secret documents at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida and for taking part in a conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election he lost to Joe Biden. Another member of the entourage was Walt Nauta, Trump’s valet, who also has been indicted in relation to the documents case for his role in allegedly hiding documents and carrying out an alleged order by Trump to destroy security footage.
It was quite a circus setting, but Johnson said he wasn’t the least bit distracted. “The only distraction is myself,” Johnson said. “It was nerves, but I was good nerves.”
His play revealed as much when he finished the opening nine with back-to-back birdies to reach 3-under. He double-bogeyed the par-4 11th but birdied the two par-5s on the back nine to regain his footing.
“This course is good,” Johnson said. “I loved it last year. It’s solid tee to green. It’s tough but fair – completely the opposite of last week…I’ve always liked tougher golf courses. They always fit my game better than ones where 25-under is winning. That’s never really been my forte. Yes, I’ve won on courses like that, but most of my wins have come on tougher golf courses.”
It was no surprise Trump followed the first threesome. The former president has a long relationship with DeChambeau, who gave him a set of golf clubs when he was in the White House in 2017. DeChambeau took Trump’s logo off his bag in 2021 following the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, but the two remained friends. It turns out that Johnson also is close with Trump.
“I’ve known President Trump for quite a while,” Johnson said. “I won Doral when it was there at Trump [Doral Golf Club]. He’s in Palm Beach, so we play a good bit of golf together. We’ve had a nice friendship over the years.”
By contrast to Johnson’s hot start on the front nine, DeChambeau was wildly inconsistent to start 3-over par through the first seven holes. Prior to the tournament, DeChambeau said he felt “like a brute” because he has been driving the ball so far of the tee and playing so well. But on this day, he was more “brutal” than anything. He sprayed his opening drive so far right that it was close to a parking lot. He had to play a provisional and was lucky to hit his approach within two feet to save bogey.
DeChambeau fought back with birdies at the par-5 8th and at No. 9, where he sprayed another drive deep into the right rough but hit an amazing wedge over a tree to within 7 feet and made the putt for birdie. Another birdie at No. 11 got DeChambeau back to even par, but he folded from there and then refused interview requests following the round.
In contrast, Johnson, who recovered from a double bogey that included two poor chips from the rough at the 11th. “I didn’t really hit a bad shot, but I pulled my drive into the rough,” Johnson said. “I took another club than usual, but I missed the green and hit two chips.”
Down the stretch, Johnson birdied the 596-yard par-5 15th and the 580-yard par-5 18th. “I’m playing good here,” Johnson said. “You just have to keep doing the simple things. I knew had two par-5s coming up, and I took advantage of them.”