Michael Johnson tied The Dogwood Invitational scoring record of 23 under by the ninth hole of Saturday’s final round. He then proceeded to possibly put that record out of reach.
Johnson shot an 8-under 64 to finish at 28 under and win the tournament at Druid Hills Golf Club. He shot the lowest round of the day for the second consecutive day to shatter the tournament record set by Andrew Buckle in 2002. Johnson finished with rounds of 64-69-63-64.
“It means a lot to me. A ton of good golfers play this tournament,” said Johnson, who plays at Auburn. “I really wasn’t thinking about it. Today, I was just trying to play. Fortunately, the putter got hot, and I was able to do it.”
After a 15th-place finish at last week’s Northeast Amateur, in which Johnson finished 5 over and didn’t putt well, he went home to Birmingham, Ala., wanting to change putters to find a better feel.
His swing coach suggested he go with a “toe-weighted,” or traditional-looking putter.
He proceeded to go through the more than 30 putters in his parents’ home, settling on a Ping Anser that he hadn’t used in 10 months and that he purchased 1 1/2 years ago.
The choice proved wise. He had only two bogeys and one double bogey during the tournament.
Johnson holed out a bunker shot on No. 7 for an eagle to increase his lead to four strokes over Georgia Tech golfer Ollie Schniederjans, who started the final round three back at 17 under.
After parring the par-3 eighth, Johnson birdied the next four holes on putts ranging from a few inches to knee-buckling feet to open a seven-shot lead through No. 12. He needed just 27 putts Saturday while hitting 16 greens in regulation. Johnson said he plans to order a few more copies of the putter.
“I haven’t had many tournaments where the putts are falling, and this one, every one seemed to fall,” he said.
Johnson said he began to think about 30 under as he stood on the No. 15 tee box at 27 under, but he wasn’t unhappy to fall two strokes short.
“It’s beautiful,” Charlie Harrison said while watching Johnson birdie No. 14. Harrison won the 1966 Dogwood Invitational at par (288).
Schniederjans, who was still within two after the sixth hole, said he didn’t feel out of it until Johnson rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 10. He had missed the fairway to the right, while Schniederjans slammed a drive down the middle. The change put Johnson five strokes ahead.
“That was like, ‘I need a miracle’,” Schniederjans said.
Schniederjans finished second at 21 under, which would have topped last year’s winning score by four strokes.
“It’s a great confidence builder,” he said. “Not everything turned out great breaks for me, and I still shot 21 under and would have won the tournament had Michael not come out and played amazing.”
Tournament chairman Edward Toledano was beaming after Johnson and Schniederjans walked off No. 18 with matching birdies. He said he didn’t mind watching the players break tournament records for single-round score (61, set by Ben Griffin in Wednesday’s first round) or total score.
“I think this is fantastic,” he said. “This is what these guys come down to do, to enjoy playing golf courses that they can have fun on. This is high-level, elite amateur golf, but it should be fun.”