Golf can be such a cruel game. While this sounds like a cliché sports fan utter all the time whether it’s just watching a PGA event or having fun playing a round, Dustin Johnson certainly proved this to be true yesterday. At the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay it looked like 21-year old Jordan Spieth was going to secure the year’s second major with a three shot lead after 16 holes.
Before you could blink, Spieth made a double bogey at 17 followed by a Johnson birdie and the two were tied heading to the 18th tee. If you didn’t know this much by now, you probably at least know how it ended. Spieth made a birdie on the par five 18th and Johnson had to counter to force a full-round playoff which would have been today. Johnson got on the green in two and had a 15-foot eagle putt to win his first major championship. At the very worst he’ll get a playoff right? Not so fast. Johnson’s eagle putt sailed long leaving him with some work to do for birdie from about five feet out. After missing the birdie putt, Johnson tapped in for par and Jordan Spieth was the U.S. Open Champion.
Not exactly the way you wanted to see a major end. Even Spieth was shocked at Johnson’s three putt. Not to take anything away from the youngster who’s playing well above his age, as he is halfway to the grand slam, but all the focus is on Johnson letting it slip away on this day after.
Granted, Johnson didn’t play his best round of golf on Sunday, especially when it came to putting. The 18th was not the only time Johnson missed a short putt. But while it’s easy to look at is as a sports fan and say he choked and didn’t deserve to win, it’s hard not to feel for Johnson. He’s been through a lot in his career. He was suspended for six months from the PGA Tour in 2012 for a failed drug test. He was disqualified from the PGA Championship in 2010 for grounding his club while on the cusp of victory. He has finished in the top ten at majors seven times. But he has never walked away victorious.
Yet, perhaps this would be the time when he got to exercise the demons. Dustin Johnson had a walk up the 18th fairway at Chambers Bay knowing he would have a putt to win. Five minutes later, it’s another disappointing finish at a major for the Coastal Carolina product. As I said, golf is cruel sometimes.
So where does Johnson go from here? The first comparison I thought of shortly after the dust had settled was Adam Scott. The supremely talented Australian had his first major seemingly in the bag, but let the 2012 Open Championship slip away making four straight bogies to end his final round as Ernie Els stole the Claret Jug by a stroke. Scott bounced back to win the 2013 Masters in a playoff over Angel Cabrera to soften the blow from the Open. Perhaps that will be Dustin Johnson. He certainly has the talent to win a major and it’s just a question of if he can seal the deal. Or perhaps yesterday will prove to be a defining moment of Johnson’s career. Stay tuned.