Positive outlook, continuing progression fuel Johnson's victory

Stan Badz/PGA TOUR
Dustin Johnson celebrates with his caddie after winning the BMW Championship.
September 12, 2010
Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents

LEMONT, Ill. -- Dustin Johnson calls them mishaps, not failures.


To some, that could be a case of semantics. But the fact is, Johnson has learned from each of his much publicized near-misses this year and has quickly become the kind of player who can be counted on to contend week-in and week-out.

At the BMW Championship on Sunday, the 26-year-old played in the final group for the fifth time this season -- and won for the second time in 2010. Some would call it redemption after those memorable gaffes at the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship but Johnson was simply glad to finally turn the tide.

The understated South Carolinian sealed the deal with a dramatic wedge at the 17th hole that landed 3 feet from the pin and eventually gave him the lead at 9 under. A clutch par later and Johnson had polished off a 69 that gave him a one-stroke victory over Paul Casey.

"It was a great day," Johnson said. "... 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 didn't make as many birdies as I would have liked to, but I made just enough.

"I felt like I really stayed in the moment. I didn't get ahead of myself. I tried not to watch the leaderboard too much. You know, I really did a good job of just being patient."

With the victory, Johnson moved to second in the FedExCup standings. That means if he wins THE TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola at East Lake Golf Club in two weeks, he'll have a silver Tiffany trophy to add to his collection of four PGA TOUR titles, as well as a $10 million bump in his bank acocunt.

The top 5
The top five players in the FedExCup standings control their own fate in two weeks at THE TOUR Championship
Name Points
1. Matt Kuchar 4,935
2. Dustin Johnson 4,299
3. Charley Hoffman 3,449
4. Steve Stricker 3,372
5. Paul Casey 3,015
For complete and updated standings, click here.

It doesn't matter what anyone else does if Johnson posts the lowest score over 72 holes at East Lake. He now controls his own destiny -- and make no mistake, he's playing well enough to make it happen.

"I've thought about that a few times," he said, grinning, when asked about the ample dollar signs. "That's a lot of money. ... To have a shot to win it, you can't ask for anything else. That's the goal coming into the Playoffs."

The lanky and laid-back Johnson, a pragmatic sort if there ever was one, said he hadn't entertained thoughts of what he might do with the Playoffs bounty if he should win at East Lake. He has no fast cars or fancy boats on his shopping list. He'd probably just put it in the bank.

"I like seeing them zeros," Johnson said simply.

Johnson, who will play on the U.S. Ryder Cup team in Wales next month, doesn't as much overwhelm as overtake his opponents like he did on Sunday at Cog Hill. He's exceptional off the tee, solid in every other phase of the game and just may be the most resilient golfer on the planet.

Johnson would have to be after the major disappointments he's had this year.

First, he saw a three-shot lead evaporate in the first two holes on Sunday at Pebble Beach. And Johnson took a one-stroke advantage into the 72nd hole of the PGA Championship only to miss out on the playoff when he grounded his club in an ill-defined bunker and was dinged for a two-stroke penalty.

"He's gone through a lot the last month or so and he obviously played wonderful golf," Casey said. And the No. 8 player in the world knows a thing or two about redemption, as well, after being inexplicably left off the European Ryder Cup team when Colin Montgomerie made his picks.

Johnson said the events that unfolded at Pebble Beach may have been the most instructive in his development, which is being guided by swing guru Butch Harmon. He triple bogeyed the second hole from a greenside bunker, then lost his drive at the third hole and made a double bogey.

Johnson's go-ahead birdie

Dustin Johnson hits his 96-yard approach shot within three feet of the cup on No. 17 and taps in for birdie to take a one-shot lead.

The patience Johnson learned that day has served him well the rest of the year.

"Everything starts moving fast in a situation like that," he recalled. "I didn't rush any shot today. I took my time, took practice swings, even when a few times I felt myself trying to rush a little bit, but I would stop, put my club back in the bag and come back and go through my routine and just take things slow."

The PGA was an extenstion of what Johnson learned at Pebble Beach. Once again, he was in the final group but managed to stay calm on a windswept and brutally challenging golf course, making birdie on the 16th and 17th holes to seize the lead.

"That's what I play for. That's why I practice," Johnson said. "That's why I'm here is to win golf tournaments and to have a chance to win a major on Sunday coming down 18. To get there and do that through 17 holes, you know, disregard the unfortunate situation; I still did everything I was supposed to do."

The way Johnson sees it, every time he has another chance to win, he's doing something right -- regardless of the outcome. As his consistency continues to improves and he keeps putting himself in contention, his confidence has risen correspondingly.

"I always believe in myself, and that's a big part of getting it done," Johnson said. "After a few unfortunate situations I've had, it definitely feels good and gives me a lot of confidence going into next week and the rest of the year. It makes things a lot easier. ...

"I'm very proud of myself. I think I've handled everything very well, and now I've got to look forward to two weeks from now in Atlanta."