Opelika, Ala.--A winner of five tournaments in his All-American career at Auburn, Michael Johnson made the most of his first PGA Tour tournament appearance with a second place finish at the Barbasol Championship. Firing a final round 65, Johnson finished a shot out of a playoff featuring Si Woo Kim and Aaron Baddeley, eventually won by Baddeley. His final round 62 wasn't quite enough to get him to the top as he looked to become the second winner on tour this year that entered the tournament on a sponsor's exemption, joining Billy Hurley.
While he didn't get the win would have given him a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour and qualified him for The Masters, the Top 10 finish gets Johnson into next week's RBC Canadian Open. Every good showing gives Johnson more opportunities to earn his card and avoid going to Q-School.
"I have a bunch of friends out here, it's just getting out here that's the hard part," Johnson said of the tour friends such as Jordan Spieth, Smylie Kaufman, Patrick Rodgers and others have already made their mark. "It's a huge confidence booster and I felt like I belonged out here this week, which was great.
"I really just had one bad swing the whole week," he added. "It cost me two shots. I'm really proud of myself because mentally I was really strong and stayed positive the whole week. I played well and I was real comfortable all week. I got off to a good start, which is always nice."
Former Auburn teammate Blayne Barber fired a final round 71 to finish tied for 47 the tournament.
Firing rounds of 67, 65, and 70 on the first three days of the tournament at Grand National, Johnson started Sunday’s final round six shots behind leader Jhonattan Vegas, but got off to a hot start to put himself into the mix along with Baddeley and 21-year old Kim of Korea.
On the difficult first hole, which normally plays as No. 10 on the Lake Course, Johnson made a birdie to get things rolling. Pars on the next three holes set Johnson up in a good position to take advantage of the par five fifth. Another birdie on seven put Johnson at two-under par for the day and with Vegas struggling, right into contention for his first tournament title.
Five consecutive pars by Johnson allowed Baddeley and Kim to both make a run with Baddeley holding a three-shot lead over the field at the turn, but consecutive birdies on 13 and 14 put Johnson at -16 and just one shot behind Baddeley with four holes remaining. On 14 Johnson nearly holed his second shot from the fairway for eagle, leaving just a foot for his fifth birdie of the day.
On the 16th hole, a reachable par-five, Johnson blasted a 301-yard drive and his his approach to 36 feet for eagle. A two-putt birdie moved him to -17, but Kim did him one better with an eagle to move one shot ahead of Johnson and Baddeley with three holes remaining. Another birdie by Kim on the par three 17th hole extended the lead to two and on 18 Johnson had a 25-footer for birdie that would have tied him for the lead, but his near miss left him one shot out of the playoff.