Now do you guys believe Dustin Johnson didn’t dwell on his final round implosion at the US Open and the bunker snafu at the PGA Championship?
After a strange summer of mishaps on Sundays at majors, DJ got redemption in winning the BMW Championship, the third leg of the FedEx Cup. It’s not the same as a US Open or PGA Championship title, but it’s still a pretty big victory (and hefty check), especially given the deluge of criticism DJ endured, not to mention the potential for long-term mental setbacks.
Talk about incredible bounce-back ability, huh? It’s safe to say that most players would carry the failures with them for much longer, letting them becoming a stumbling block the next time they were in contention. (No, the BMW Championship isn’t a major, but it goes for any tournament.) I mean, some would argue that triple-bogeying the second hole and giving up a three-shot lead at Pebble Beach passes the criteria for a good old-fashioned choke job. He never recovered and shot 82. Blame the first time on inexperienced nerves.
But the mental lapse on the 18th hole at Whistling Straits probably hurt more. The scene of DJ erasing his “5” on his scorecard was rough to watch. With all the controversy, the ’10 PGA Championship will likely be remembered more for DJ’s “not a bunker” than Martin Kaymer’s impressive victory.
Not often hampered by deep thought, DJ showed on Sunday that he’s learned from his mistakes.
“Pebble taught me a lot, I think,” he said. “That’s where I learned the most is I think after getting off to a rough start, I kind of maybe got a little fast. I played — everything starts moving fast in a situation like that. You know, so I really learned to be patient and not rush things. I didn’t rush any shot today.”
In fact, DJ took his time before important shots, like his putt for birdie on 16. He even consulted his yardage book with caddie Bobby Brown. He looked at the line from all angles. He was deliberate. Johnny Miller called it “out of character.” Though the putt just slid by the edge, DJ knew the importance of the putt and stayed patient. I think we call that excellent progress.
Johnson was rewarded on the next hole, where he knocked his approach to two-feet and tapped in for birdie to take a one-shot lead over Paul Casey, who was safely in the clubhouse.
“I mean, it wasn’t very hard [to get over Whistling Straits] at all, to be honest,” said DJ. “You know, there’s a lot of good things I can take from that day other than the last hole. I played really good golf. I birdied 16 and 17 to get a one-shot lead going down the stretch, and that’s what you — I mean, that’s what I play for.”
So, how about that 18th hole?
As my friend pointed out at the time, “The lake is still sitting there.” But DJ calmly knocked his drive in the fairway and hit a nice approach on the green. He lagged his birdie putt to tap-in range and completed a stress-free final hole.
How’s that for a guy who’s been criticized for not getting the job done?
“It was a great day,” said DJ. “You know, to finally get it done, especially after all the things I’ve gone through this summer, to finally get it done on Sunday, it can’t feel any better, especially I played really good golf today.
“I know I’ve had some failures, but I don’t know if I’d call them failures. I’ve had a few mishaps. But still, today to come back and get it done, I’m very proud of myself. I think I’ve handled everything very well.”
Indeed. Johnson proved he can play great golf for more than 54 holes or even 71; he can finish birdie-par to close on a Sunday. Give him credit because it was impressive. No doubt it won’t be long until he’ll snag that elusive major victory. For now, he’s aiming to win the FedEx Cup (he’s surged to second in the standings), along with the modest $10 million bonus.
“I like seeing them zeros,” he said laughing.
[Photos by Kyle Auclair/insidetheropes.com]