He arrived in the suburbs north of Chicago at No. 27 in the FedEx Cup, wanting only to make sure he held down his spot in the top 30 so he could advance to the Tour Championship this week in Atlanta.
Johnson played the final 31 holes of the rain-delayed BMW Championship without a bogey. By making more putts than he can remember for a final round, he motored into the lead with two late birdies Monday and closed with a 6-under 65 for a two-shot win over Nick Watney.
Not only was he going to East Lake, he was headed there as the No. 4 seed, meaning he had a clear shot at the FedEx Cup and its $10 million prize.
Just two weeks ago, in the most recent FedEx Cup playoff event, he knew he was on the bubble for the Presidents Cup team. He wound up making a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole of the tournament to earn the 10th spot on the team.
How did he get there? By thinking more about each round of golf instead of what the outcome might mean.
Now there are 10 million ways his September can get even better.
"It's hard to grasp the last two weeks of golf because I was trying to make that Presidents Cup team without trying to make it," Johnson said. "I was trying to get in the top 30 this week without trying to make it. ... I've got to remember it and try to utilize some of the things I've learned over the last three weeks—not trying too hard in certain instances when you're trying to make certain things.
"But if there's any pride, it's the fact that I was able to get the job done on those two occasions."
Watney can appreciate that.
After a mediocre season, he started the FedEx Cup playoffs at No. 63, assured of playing only the first two events. But he tied for ninth at The Barclays, finished in the middle of the pack at the Deutsche Bank Championship, and moved up to No. 34 going into the BMW Championship.
Needing a solid final round to get into the top 30, he nearly won the tournament. Watney opened with three straight birdies, made three straight birdies on the back nine and finished with a 7-under 64 that gave him hope of winning until Johnson made an 18-foot birdie putt out of the first cut of rough on the 16th green, and then took on another flag at the 17th and made a 12-foot birdie putt that essentially wrapped up Johnson's first win of the year.
"After I birdied the 13th hole, I kind of thought that I was going to make it to Atlanta," Watney said. "And then it was just about trying to make as many as I could to see if I could put a little pressure on these guys."
Jim Furyk left Chicago able to celebrate only his 59 on Friday. Of the six players who have shot 59, only three went on to win. Al Geiberger remains the only one in that group who shot 59 in an earlier round and still won (1977 Memphis Classic). Furyk now has failed to win the last six times he had at least a share of the lead going into the final round. He had a two-shot lead after a birdie on the 10th, but played the last eight holes in 2-over and finished third with a 71.
"I don't know if I used them all up on Friday and knocked them all in or what, but I just wasn't able to get the putts to go," Furyk said.
There was more than just one winner at Conway Farms.
Johnson, who finished at 16-under 268, won for the 10th time in his underappreciated career and went over the $30 million mark in career earnings. For a guy who just wanted to make sure he got to East Lake, it took him awhile to remember the significance of being the No. 4 seed.
The FedEx Cup points will be reset, meaning the top five only have to win the Tour Championship to capture the cup.
Tiger Woods will be the No. 1 seed, though he doesn't go there with much momentum. Woods started the final round in cool, breezy conditions just four shots behind and was never a factor after missing a short par putt on the opening hole. He closed with a 71 and tied for 11th, seven shots behind.
"It was not a very good putting week," said Woods, who was coming off a tie for 65th on the TPC Boston. "It's just one of those weeks where I just didn't have it."
Henrik Stenson, a winner in Boston and angry enough in Chicago that he snapped off the head of his driver during the final round, will be the No. 2 seed at East Lake, followed by Masters champion Adam Scott, Johnson and Matt Kuchar.
The other big winner was Luke Donald, who came through with a clutch performance on his home course.
He was No. 54 in the FedEx Cup and was on the verge of being left out of the top 30 players who advanced to the Tour Championship. He ran off four straight birdies on the back nine, atoned for a bogey on No. 16 with a birdie on the 17th, and then saved par from a bunker on the 18th hole for a 66 to tie for fourth. That moved him up to No. 29 to get him into East Lake.
"I was hoping that being a member here would help me, and I think it did a little bit," Donald said.