OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. — In a FedEx Cup playoff opener that felt like a heavyweight bout, Dustin Johnson delivered back-to-back blows to beat Jordan Spieth in the Northern Trust.
One was a putt from 18 feet.
The other was a drive that traveled 341 yards.
Down to his last shot, Johnson watched his 18-foot par putt stay on the high side of the hole and thought it surely would miss. He took two steps of hope to the right, then pumped his fist in a rare show of emotion from the reserved player when it swirled around and dropped in the cup for 4-under 66 to force a playoff.
Given new life, the 33-year-old relied on his strength and powered a drive over the lake to the far edge of the fairway on the 475-yard par 4. It was the longest drive all week on No. 18, and it left him a 60-degree wedge that he nailed to within 4 feet for birdie and a victory he badly needed.
The top-ranked player in golf finally looked the part again.
"It was fun to be in the hunt again and know that my game is going to hold up under pressure," Johnson said.
Spieth lost for the first time in six tries when leading by at least two, and there wasn't much the No. 2-ranked player could do except take back the tee shot into the water on the par-3 sixth after having a five-shot lead. Johnson played bogey-free over the final 29 holes.
"I didn't lose the tournament," Spieth said after closing with 69. "He won it."
It was great theater between the two friends. "I thought that was a fun show," Spieth said. "I was hoping it wasn't going to be that much fun."
Johnson made up a five-shot deficit in five holes, and they battled along the back nine with big shots and big moments.
They were tied on the par-3 17th when both hit into a bunker, and Johnson blasted out to 4 feet with an easier shot and angle to the hole. Spieth had 18 feet for par and knocked it in, like the 24-year-old always seems to do.
On the closing hole of regulation, after Johnson sliced his drive up the hill and into a nasty lie in the rough, he chose to lay up instead of trying to hammer a shot to an elevated green. He made it pay off with par, making the playoff after Spieth lagged a 75-foot putt perfectly for par.
They finished at 13-under 267.
Johnson was angry with himself after his tee shot in regulation for not taking it over the water, even with a light wind in his face.
"Right after I hit my drive, I was like, 'What am I doing?' " Johnson said. He told his caddie, brother Austin Johnson, that if they got into a playoff, he wouldn't make the same mistake twice.
Johnson won for the first time since he wrenched his back after a fall that knocked him out of the Masters and derailed his dominance. He had won three straight until that injury. "I feel like the game is finally back in form like it was before the Masters," he said.
Of his 16 victories, this was the first time Johnson faced a must-make putt on the final hole.
The top 100 advanced to the FedEx Cup's next playoff round at TPC Boston this week.
LPGA: Sung Hyun Park added the Canadian Pacific Women's Open title to her U.S. Open crown with a comeback victory in Ottawa. She birdied the final hole for 7-under 64 and a two-stroke win over Mirim Lee (68). Four strokes behind entering the round, Park finished at 13-under 271. "I think it was a perfect game (Sunday)," she said. Nicole Broch Larsen, a co-leader entering the day, had 70 to tie for third at 10 under with Cristie Kerr (69), In Gee Chun (70), Shanshan Feng (68) and Marina Alex (68).
CHAMPIONS: Jerry Kelly won the Boeing Classic for his first tour title, closing with 6-under 66 and a one-shot advantage over Jerry Smith (64) in Snoqualmie, Wash. Kelly shot a tournament-record 19-under 197.
WIE HAS APPENDECTOMY: Michelle Wie was set to have surgery to remove her appendix. Wie withdrew before the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women's Open and was taken to Ottawa Hospital for surgery.