Dustin Johnson insists it didn’t take long for him to get over the disappointment from the U.S. Open, where he had a 12-footer for eagle to win outright and a four-footer on the 72nd hole to tie Jordan Spieth and force an 18-hole playoff the following Monday. Johnson missed both putts and settled with a share of runner-up honors.
“I played really well that week,” said Johnson on Monday at The Old Course. “I was happy with the way I played and the way I handled myself coming down the last few holes. I thought I hit the shots that I was supposed to hit. I did everything I was supposed to.
“It wasn’t too difficult to get over it. Obviously I was a little disappointed I didn’t get the job done, but you know, I was definitely happy with the way I played.”
Following the shocking loss, he traveled with his fiancee Paulina Gretzky and his baby son Tatum, along with the Gretzky clan and his brother Austin, to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to decompress.
Johnson was adamant that his four-footer for birdie to match Spieth’s score of five-under bounced offline due to the controversial condition of the greens, where their bumpiness sometimes altered the ball’s route to the hole.
“I don’t know if you watched the telecast, but I think pretty much everyone missed a lot of putts,” said DJ. “I mean, (missing putts) was just part of it. The greens weren’t rolling that great. I felt like I was hitting good putts, it’s just tough to judge bounces.”
That’s a fair point. However, in the case of Johnson’s birdie putt, I’ve watched the video multiple times and it appears like he missed it because he pulled it — not because of an unfortunate bounce.
“I was trying to make (the eagle putt), but I wanted it — if it went in, I wanted it to barely go in, and it still went four feet by,” said DJ. “I hit a good putt on the way back, and it just bounced and missed left.”
Sometimes it’s advantageous for golfers to be a bit delusional and believe that the outcome wasn’t actually their fault. After all, it’s easier to cope with the letdown that way.
With a somewhat twisted sense of humor (or for our viewing entertainment), the R&A paired Johnson with Spieth, so we will get to see them play alongside each other even if it isn’t on a Monday at Chambers Bay.
“Jordan is a good buddy of mine, and so we have fun playing together,” said DJ. “I think we’ve got a good group. I think I just saw it’s me and Spieth and Matsuyama, so it’ll be a good day. I like playing with Jordan.”
Spieth, of course, is trying to win his third straight major en route to completing the Grand Slam, a near impossible feat. Johnson doesn’t plan on making it easy for Spieth.
“Well, I’m playing in the next two (majors), so we’ll have to see,” he said, smiling.
Johnson finished T14 at the Open in 2010 when it was last held at St Andrews — and if I recall correctly, it could have been better had he not given up a couple of strokes coming down the stretch, like hitting it out-of-bounds on the 18th in the final round. He fancies his chances at the Old Course and enjoys the challenge of links golf.
“I always enjoy coming over and playing the British (Open),” he said. “I feel like I play very well over here. I’ve always liked it since the first time I came over in college, and I just think it’s a lot of fun. I like the golf, and it’s very challenging, uses a lot of imagination, and this is one of my favourite Open venues with the history, and just I love the golf course. It’s a lot of fun to play. I played pretty well here the last time I was here in 2010.”
In his last five starts at the Open, Johnson has finished T14 or better four times, including a T2 in 2011 — when he blew it out-of-bounds on the 14th hole on Sunday to lose his chance at capturing the Claret Jug — and T9 in 2012.
With the softer-than-usual conditions at the Old Course this week, bombers are believed to have an advantage, which, obviously, includes Johnson — he’s certainly a favorite to contend here (and I’ll be putting a few quid on him).
“I’ve played here during The Open in ’10 and then played the Dunhill (Links on the European Tour) a couple times, so I’ve got quite a few rounds out here,” said DJ. “I think the conditions right now, they’re really good. It’s not too soft. I mean, it’s not like the balls are stopping where they’re landing. They’re still bouncing pretty good.
“Like any Open, it all depends on the wind. If the wind blows, it’s going to play difficult. If it doesn’t, then we’ll be able to make a lot of birdies. So it just all depends on the weather, but I think the course right now is in great shape. The greens are really good. The fairways are nice, and it’s not — I don’t think it’s really soft.”
For his Open preparation, Johnson went to Dublin, Ireland, to prepare for this week’s test on a links course. He played Portmarnock and Royal Dublin.
“I go over every year before The Open and play some golf over there and then come over,” said DJ. “It was a nice weekend, just hung out with the boys and played some golf.”
In his last eight start at majors, DJ has four top-eight finishes, which includes several near-misses, but he’s not discouraged by his inability to close out a major.
“I think it’s very good, very positive,” said Johnson. “It gives me the confidence to know I have what it takes to win. I think I showed that at the U.S. Open. Coming down the back nine, I was hitting the shots that I wanted to hit. Unfortunately the ball wasn’t bouncing in the hole. You know, I’ve got what it takes, so I’m excited to get this week started.”
He’s not concerned with scar tissue, either, as he’s not one to dwell on the past.
“I think every situation you can learn from,” said DJ. “You know, it just depends on the way you want to look at it. I think every person is different. I try to look at them all as learning opportunities, so for me, they’re all learning opportunities. Each one helps me get closer to getting — to actually getting a major.”