The way Dustin Johnson began the final round of The Barclays, he figured the only thing that could keep him from winning was the rain.
Needing a good start, he opened with back-to-back birdies. In a bunker for the first time all week, he holed the 85-foot shot for eagle on No. 4 to take the lead. Even a wild tee shot on the par-5 fifth landed in trampled grass with a clear shot at the green.
And then it started raining.
The Barclays, already reduced to 54 holes because of Hurricane Irene, would have reverted to a 36-hole tournament if the rain arrived early and kept the third round Saturday from finishing, making Matt Kuchar the winner.
"The way I got started, I was hoping that we were going to keep on playing," Johnson said.
The rain stopped. Johnson kept right on going.
He shot 29 on the front nine for the second straight day -- he played the front in 17-under par for the week -- to close with a 6-under 65 and win the opening FedEx Cup playoff event by two shots over Kuchar.
Johnson didn't take the lead for good until Kuchar, who won The Barclays a year ago on a different course, three-putted from long range just off the green on consecutive holes on the back nine to make bogeys. He closed with a 68.
"I had the two basic three-putts and for me, that seems just very uncharacteristic," Kuchar said. "I felt like I was just giving shots away."
Johnson, who moved to No. 4 in the world, finished at 19-under 194 for his first win of the year and fifth of his career. He became the first player since Tiger Woods to go straight from college and win in each of his first four years on the PGA Tour.
He wasn't the only big winner. Ian Poulter birdied four of his last five holes for a 64, making him one of eight players who moved inside the top 100 in the FedEx Cup standings and advance to the second playoff event next week outside Boston.
William McGirt, the last of the 125 players who qualified for the playoffs, birdied the 17th hole that pushed him to No. 96. Padraig Harrington went from No. 124 to No. 80 with his tie for 13th. And then there was Ernie Els. He would have been eliminated had the tournament been cut short to 36 holes. Els had a 67 to jump from 118th in the standings to No. 99.
"You're trying to survive. It's desperation," Els said. "It's sadistic."
Johnson goes atop the FedEx Cup standings as the four-tournament race begins for the $10 million prize.
Around the links
* Defending champion Michelle Wie shot a 4-under 68 in the Canadian Women's Open in Mirabel, Que., for a share of the third-round lead with Ai Miyazato and Tiffany Joh. Wie is trying to become the first player to win the national championship two years in a row since Pat Bradley in 1985-86.
* Mark Calcavecchia seized his opportunity on the final two holes, birdieing the par-3 17th and holing a 20-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th for a 5-under 67 and a share of the second-round lead in the Champions Tour's Boeing Classic in Snoqualmie, Wash.
* Patrick Cantaly will face Kelly Kraft for the U.S. Amateur title today (4 p.m., Ch. 2) after they won semifinal matches in Erin, Wis., Saturday.