Johnson gets redemption at the U.S. Open
June 19, 2016
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM
- Dustin Johnson sealed his first major victory by making only the second birdie of the day at the difficult 18th hole. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
OAKMONT, Pa. – A few observations following the final round at the U.S. Open, with Dustin Johnson coming from four shots back to win his first career major championship. For more on Sunday's action, check out the Daily Wrap-up.
JOHNSON LEAVES OAKMONT A CHAMPION
Dustin Johnson knew it would take a special round to win his first major championship. He produced that and more on Sunday afternoon, closing with 1-under 69 to win the U.S. Open by three shots over Jim Furyk, Scott Piercy and Shane Lowry.
Sitting four shots back of Lowry at the beginning of the afternoon, Johnson set the tone early on, pumping a 378-yard drive on the 1st hole and another 315-yard tee shot on the 2nd that landed just short of the green and produced his first birdie of the round.
Johnson hit fairways and greens with regularity over the opening nine holes, never getting into any serious trouble. He made a number of key putts along the way, including an 8-footer for par on the 8th, and a 6-foot birdie on the 9th that moved him into a share of the lead with Shane Lowry, at 4-under, as he made the turn to Oakmont's unrelenting back nine.
It was there over the final nine holes that Johnson endured a roller coaster of emotions, starting on the 10th when he pulled his tee shot into the rough on the adjacent 11th hole. With his approach blocked by a television tower, Johnson was allowed relief from the immovable obstruction and would go on to make par.
"I think they're called temporary, immovable obstructions," said Johnson, who moved his ball from the rough to the first cut on the 11th hole. "So you get the flag, once you can see the flag, then you get a club length from there, and then you drop in the second one. So that's just how the rules say you do it."
Two holes later, Johnson went through another bizarre incident when a USGA official approached him on the tee to inform him that he may have incurred a penalty on the 5th hole, when his ball moved as he was preparing to putt.
"Honestly, I tried to — they said they were going to look at it when we got done," Johnson said. "I felt like I wasn't going to be penalized, so I just went about my business. Just focused on the drive on 12 and from there on out, that we'd deal with it when we got done."
Unsure if he would be penalized, Johnson went about his business, launching a 365-yard drive on the 12th to set up another par. With the exception of a missed par putt on the 14th, Johnson was nearly unflappable for the rest of the round.
When asked whether he wanted relief from a sprinkler head on the 16th, Johnson declined and got up-and-down for par, converting a 10-footer that drew a fist pump from the 32 year old.
With a two-shot lead and the tournament hanging in the balance, Johnson leaned on his driver over the last two holes. Instead of laying up on the drivable 17th, Johnson went for the green and ended up in the front bunker. He managed to get up-and-down for par and then hit a 303-yard cut into the center of the fairway on the 18th, setting up a 191-yard approach that landed 5 feet from the hole.
Standing over the birdie putt knowing he could be assessed a one-shot penalty after the round, Johnson calmly rolled the ball into the center of the cup, drawing a massive roar from the crowd.
Johnson ended the tournament at the top of the leaderboard in driving distance (316 yards) and said after the final round that his performance off the tee played a major role in his come-from-behind victory.
"It's definitely probably one of my best weeks driving the ball," Johnson said. "I think, if I count -- I did not have to hit out of the deep rough. I mean, maybe a couple times. So I hit a lot of fairways, and it seemed like, when I missed the fairways, I was just in the first cut.
"I think a couple (of) times I hit it in the rough, it was with an iron, not with my driver. To me, this is one of the best weeks I've ever drove the ball for sure."
With the win, Johnson put an end to his 0-for-28 record in major championships and took himself out of the running for the “best-player-never-to-have-won-a-major discussion."
"I mean, it's definitely a big monkey off my back," Johnson said. "You know, coming into today, I've been in this situation time and time again. So I know it's what to expect. I know how to handle myself. For me to finally get it done on Sunday in a major, it's a huge monkey off my back.
"I don't know. You know, it's fantastic, and it feels really good for sure because I've worked so hard to get here. I've put myself in this position many times, and to get it done is definitely sweet."
LOWRY STUMBLES IN LEAD POSITION
Shane Lowry's dreams of winning his first major championship came undone late in the day on Oakmont's back-nine. The Irishman started the round with a four-shot lead but quickly came back to the pack on the 2nd hole when his approach shot spun off the front of the green, leading to his first bogey of the day.
Lowry would add two more bogeys to the card on the 5th and 9th holes after finding the bunker off the tee. The bogey on the 9th erased Lowry's four-shot lead and turned him into a pursuer on the back-nine when his 12-foot par putt on the 10th slid by the hole.
A birdie on the 12th gave Lowry new life, but he quickly gave it back with three consecutive bogeys, on Nos. 14-16, that ended his chances of winning his first major championship.
"It caught up with me on 14," Lowry said. "Really bad streak there, obviously on 15 and 16 as well. To do that, at that time in this tournament, is — I mean, the more I think about it, the more upset I get. So that's the way golf is. I just hope to get on with that."
Lowry admitted after a final-round 76 that he let a golden opportunity slip through his hands.
"Bitterly disappointed, standing here," Lowry said. "And, you know, it's not easy to get yourself in a position I got myself in today. It was there for the taking and I didn't take it.
"But, you know, you can only learn from your mistakes, I always say it's only a mistake if you don't learn from it. I'm sure I learned a lot from today and I don't know what it is yet, but when I'm in that position again, and I know I will be, I'll handle it probably a little bit better."
DAY CAN'T COMPLETE THE COMEBACK
There was a time on Sunday afternoon where it looked like Jason Day could potentially complete the largest 54-hole comeback in U.S. Open history.
Stuck in neutral and in desperate need of a spark, Day chipped in for eagle from 26 yards off the green on the 12th and then poured in a 14-footer for birdie on the 13th to get to 1-under.
But that would end up being the extent of the fireworks for Day. Knowing at least another birdie or two was needed to potentially make a playoff, the Aussie pressed on the last two holes and paid the price.
After his tee shot found the front bunker on the drivable 17th, Day took five shots to get his ball in the hole — it took him two shots to get out of the back bunker — and suffered a tournament-ending double-bogey in the process. He would add another bogey on the last to finish at 2-over for the week.
"I had to push," said Day. "You can't win tournaments just, you know, really laying up there. I mean, I had the opportunity to go out there and give myself the shot at winning the tournament -- tried to hit a good shot there. Hit a great drive. Unfortunately, didn't work out."
The T8 finish at Oakmont was his seventh top-10 this season to go along with three wins. Even though Day stumbled down the stretch, he left Oakmont with some positives heading into a busy stretch in his schedule.
"I've got to understand that these things happen for a reason," said Day. "I just said earlier that I've just got to understand that and not be too disappointed, because where I was hitting after my first round, shooting 6-over-par, to where I am now, trying to fight my way back in and giving myself an opportunity at winning, especially on a U.S. Open course, it takes a lot of grit and a lot of oomph to get there. Fortunately, but unfortunately, I didn't quite make it."
KOEPKA'S STELLAR ROUND HITS THE SKIDS
Coming into Sunday, Brooks Koepka had recorded seven birdies and an eagle in his first three rounds. Koepka nearly matched those numbers during the final round — he notched six birdies and an eagle — getting to 6-under through 11 holes and even-par for the tournament.
Koepka was 8 under during an eight-hole stretch, from Nos. 4-11, and looked to be in position to make a run at Johnny Miller's major championship record 63. Even Koepka felt like he on the verge of a special round.
"I was hoping for something even lower," Koepka said. "I was hoping for 60, 61. I thought that was pretty obtainable."
The possibility of shooting a sub-63 round was a distinct possibility — until Koepka rattled off four consecutive bogeys late in the round, ending his run at Miller's record and the tournament.
"When you know it's your day, it's your day," Koepka said. "Just aim at some flags. You're getting good breaks. Things will kind of going your way. They were going our way early. But as far as the last four holes, it's a little disappointing."
Koepka would go on to shoot a 2-under 68 and post 4-over par for the tournament, good enough for his third straight top-20 finish at the U.S. Open.
RAHM IS LOW AMATEUR
Jon Rahm's sterling amateur career came to a close on Sunday afternoon. The only amateur who made the cut at Oakmont, Rahm shot 72-70 on the weekend to end the week T23 in his last amateur start before turning pro next week at Quicken Loans National.
"It was a great feeling to just make the cut and top it off with shooting just 2 over for the weekend," said Rahm. "Great feeling on 18, having a chance to make birdie to finish my amateur career.
"It's a special moment being where I am and being (at) this course, today, the last day of my amateur career."
Following Rahm's first professional start next week at Congressional Country Club, he'll play the Barracuda Championship, Barbasol Championship and John Deere Classic. Rahm, who has seven sponsor's exemptions, also hinted he's finalizing two other TOUR starts.
"I'm feeling positive about two other extensions, but I need to wait until they make it official first," Rahm said. "So far, four events and try to take advantage of those four events."
QUOTE OF THE DAYBest Father's Day ever.
BEST OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Dustin Johnson's first shot of the day?— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 19, 2016
378 yards down the fairway.
He's major ready. pic.twitter.com/InZHQss8JY
Respect for the fans. pic.twitter.com/lKNj1aNEfc— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 19, 2016
Also, fans of Pittsburgh were amazing! One of the top sports towns in the country. I can see why now! #1stclass— Billy Horschel (@BillyHo_Golf) June 19, 2016
World No. 1 for eagle!— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 19, 2016
Not much beats the back 9 of a major. https://t.co/95m6mEhBXg
Dustin made just the second birdie all day on No. 18. pic.twitter.com/LVSp7qi8X9— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 20, 2016
"The shot of his life!"— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 20, 2016
Mic drop from Dustin Johnson. https://t.co/IjYf5K6Umh
Jordan Spieth earlier in the month on the U.S. Open winner ... pic.twitter.com/urJ9IS7kUl— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 20, 2016
Thru 54 holes: Down by 4— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 20, 2016
Thru 72 holes: Winner by 3 pic.twitter.com/DPu9uucvhI
Family matters.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 20, 2016
A major win for the whole team. pic.twitter.com/zl0P3kBz6u
@DJohnsonPGA Congrats on the major long time coming and couldn't happen to a nicer guy.— Tommy Gainey (@TwoGlovesGolf) June 20, 2016
DJ!!! @DJohnsonPGA you are the man...that was impressive!!!— Rickie Fowler (@RickieFowler) June 20, 2016
So happy for @DJohnsonPGA. Couldn't deserve it more. Most impressive player I've ever played with and tamed the beast this week! Congrats!— Justin Thomas (@JustinThomas34) June 20, 2016
That was an incredible display of golf @DJohnsonPGA. Absolute stripe show and short game exhibition considering all distractions. Well done!— Smylie Kaufman (@SmylieKaufman10) June 20, 2016