Coming into the U.S Open as one of the favorites due to his recent play (I had him ranked 2nd), many thought Dustin Johnson would have a good week. But who could forget just a year prior when Dustin was looking at an 8 foot putt to win his first major but instead walked of the 18th green a stroke behind after three putting from there. Many doubts surrounded Dustin. He entered another major championship with everyone having high hopes, but also with the concerns of him never quite being able to win and finish it off.
Johnson entered the final round on Sunday afternoon four shots behind the leader Shane Lowry. Lowry fired a 65 in the third round as he built a four shot lead over the nearest competitors (Johnson and Andrew Landry). The leaderboard was filled with players seeking their first major championships including Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia who have had over ten top 3 finishes combined in major championships. Both have been searching for a long time and both will continue to search after Oakmont.
Lowry and Landry, who were paired together in the final group showed the nerves early as Landry shot a +7, 42, on the front 9 while Lowry shot a 38. Lowry was still in contention however all the way til the end.
DJ played stellar golf on Sunday as he headed into the back nine. He found himself in a familiar position, being around or in the lead on the back nine at a major, and he was able to capitalize. Not only did he have to deal with the pressure of a U.S. Open, but also a possible penalty he may have incurred. A USGA official informed Dustin on 12 tee that they were examining his incident on hole 5 and that they would discuss it further after the round. For those who didn’t see it, on hole 5, DJ took a couple practice strokes and was just about to address the ball when it rolled back a millimeter or two. At the time of the incident, he called in the official with the group, he explained the situation and was told that he was free to play on, no penalty or anything. But after further review, the USGA decided that he actually might have caused the ball to move.There are many issues I have with te way they went about this but most importantly, they ended up assessing the penalty!!! DJ didn’t address the ball, how could he have caused it to move??? The new rule is players can even address the ball and be deemed not to have caused it to move and not receive a penalty. The USGA’s explanation is that there were not other factors that were likely to cause it and that the proximity of his putter when taking his practice strokes could have caused it. I can tell you right now how the ball moved: It’s called gravity!! When you are on the fastest and most undulating greens in the world, I wouldn’t think it’s uncommon for a ball to move when it’s place on the green. However the USGA, the people who set up the course, don’t even think that could be the case. Turns out he was assessed the penalty after the round while throughout much of the back nine his score remained uncertain. Nonetheless, Johnson seemed to block that out of his mind, forget the trials of previous majors and execute shot after shot down the stretch, culminating in the 190 yard, 6-iron to 3 feet on the 18th hole. DJ carded a 69 to win by a total of 3 shots. The USGA dodged a bullet that DJ ended with a 4 shot lead. If he doesn’t birdie the 18th and if Lowry doesn’t fall apart down the stretch, the penalty could have made all the difference.
Many storylines unfolded on Sunday and it was quite a hectic week in the end with all the delays early, the USGA show on Sunday and all the havoc Oakmont realed on players such as Westwood, Landry and Lowry who shot 80, 78, and 76 respectively in their final rounds. But in the end Dustin prevailed. He defeated not only the field, but also his inner demons, the beast of a course that is Oakmont, and the looming penalty in the final round.
Jack Nicklaus said on the broadcast today that the first one is ther hardest, but after that, the majors are the easiest to win. Now that Dustin had one, I expect more to follow. He is arguably the most talented player with his length, ball striking and short game touch and it was only a matter of time before he won his first major. He turns 32 next week and he is in the prime of his career. Remember it took Mickelson even longer to get his first major and now he has five and is in the World Golf Hall of Fame. I’m not saying Dustin is bound for St. Augustine just yet, he has a long road ahead. With his talent and now breakthrough into the winners circle, many more can be expected by DJ.