Johnson optimistic despite missed chance
June 21, 2015
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Dustin Johnson missed a 3-foot birdie putt on No. 18 Sunday that would have forced an 18-hole playoff. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. -- Dustin Johnson had just squandered a chance to win the U.S. Open, three-putting from 12 feet for par when he needed the eagle to win outright and a birdie for an 18-hole playoff on his 31st birthday.
He shook hands with Jason Day and both their caddies, then strode purposefully off the green, those long legs taking his 6-foot-4 frame briskly away from the scene of another major disappointment. As Johnson caught site of his fiancée, Paulina Gretzky, and their 5-month-old son, Tatum, though, he couldn't help but smile.
Johnson kissed his future wife, then took the toddler and walked toward the scoring trailer with Tatum in his arms, occasionally lifting him high into the air. Day's son, Dash, who is closing in on his third birthday, took a similar ride with his dad on this dramatic Father's Day afternoon.
Both men had started the final round tied for the lead with Branden Grace and Jordan Spieth. Day, less than 48 hours removed from a bout of vertigo so severe he had collapsed on Friday, ran out of gas in the final round and finished five strokes off the pace.
Johnson, though, was in the hunt until the end, clawing his way back to have a chance to win outright after making three bogeys in the first four holes of the back nine Sunday. So he didn't get that big silver loving cup everyone wanted, but Johnson still kept his eye on the real prize.
"At the end of the day, golf is golf," Johnson said. "I've got my family and that's most important to me. My trophy at the end of the day is holding up my little man.
"I couldn't be more proud of myself and my family. No matter what, I'm going to keep my head high and I'm going to be happy."
Not that it's always been easy. Johnson, a nine-time winner on the PGA TOUR who possesses abundant length and oodles of talent, has been seriously snakebitten at major championships like this one at Chambers Bay.
The South Carolinian took the lead into the final round of the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, only to shoot 82. Two months later, he incurred a two-stroke penalty at Whistling Straits for grounding his club in an ill-defined bunker at the PGA Championship. And the following year, Johnson sent a 2-iron out of bounds at crunch time at Royal St. George's when he had a chance to win the Open Championship.
Sunday stung because Johnson, who had led by two at the turn, had not one but two chances to at least force an 18-hole playoff with Jordan Spieth on Monday. And that three-putt was extremely disappointing, particularly after the bodacious drive and 8-iron he'd hit just to give himself a chance at history.
"Other than that, I had a damn good week," Johnson said. "I'm happy with the way I played. I'm happy with everything in my game right now. I had a chance to win a major on a Sunday again.
"I thought I handled myself very well. I hit the shots when I needed to. So I know what it takes to get it done; it's real simple. I need to get in the hole faster."
Johnson, to his credit, didn't take the easy way out and blame those putts that stubbornly refused to fall on the fescue surfaces laced with poa annua that many of his peers said had all but expired. Yes, the grass was bumpy. They're fast, too. But he kept giving himself chances, and that was the most important thing.
"If I rolled the putter halfway decent today -- which I did roll it well -- just any putts go in the hole, I win this thing by a few shots; it's not even close," Johnson said. "It's just how it goes. I thought I played really well. I did everything that I could. I tried my damndest to get in the hole. I just couldn't do it."
Johnson was where he wanted to be on Sunday afternoon, though. As they stood together on the pivotal 18th green, he remembered telling his brother Austin, who caddies for him, that having an opportunity to win the U.S. Open was why he played the game.
"Starting the week, all you want is a chance to have a chance to win on the back nine on Sunday," Johnson said. "I did that. I put myself in the position. I hit the shots I needed to hit.
"I gave myself looks. Just wasn't my time."
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