Dustin Johnson gets last laugh

on June 2016 | in Sports | by Dario Passarelli | @PapaDart | with No Comments

Happy Father’s Day to Dustin Johnson, and a happy day it was. The golfing gods may not like him, but they too must give Johnson his due after his last round performance at the 2016 US Open. For once his name was not associated with a collapse as it was before, several times before. A quick trip down golf’s memory lane takes us back to the 2010 US Open where he had a three-stroke lead at Pebble Beach. He hit two bogeys on that last round and added a double and triple bogey to boot. He finished 8th as the gods giggled. In that same year at the PGA Championship he was issued a two-stroke penalty on the final hole (for grounding his club in the bunker) that cost him a spot in the playoffs. The gods just laughed in his face. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there. There was that double bogey on the 14th hole at the 2011 British Open. He wound up finishing tied for second. Then most recently, there was last year’s US Open at Chambers Bay. He missed a 15 foot eagle putt to win the US Open outright and then missed a 3 foot putt to send it to a playoff. The golfing gods again, bent over in laughter.

Dustin Johnson became easy to criticize. He doesn’t have “it” – that mental toughness that separates champions from those who history forgets. In fact, he wasn’t Dustin Johnson the golfer, he was Dustin Johnson the husband of Paulina Gretzky and Wayne Gretzky’s son-in-law. But that changed Sunday at Oakmont, Pennsylvania when he won his first golfing major, the 2016 US Open. He not only won, but he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has the mental toughness as he performed under the most asinine of scenarios.

Forget the fact that coming in to the last round Shane Lowry was leading by four strokes. Lowry played so well to that point but his putter let him down on Sunday as he had 7 bogeys and finished tied for second. Johnson on the other hand was playing steady and was two-under par on the front nine. Heading into the back nine, Johnson held a one stroke lead. But when you are familiar with the tormented history he has at majors, you just felt that the golfing gods had something special waiting for him. Sure enough, before he was to hit the tee shot on the 12th hole, he was approached by the USGA field marshals. Apparently during his putt on the fifth hole, the ball moved. The judges believed it was caused by his practice swing and therefore told him he might incur a one-stroke penalty. They told him it would be reviewed after he finished playing.

Seriously, there are so many things wrong with this ruling I don’t even know where to begin. First, the ball moved backwards and therefore (according to the laws of physics) impossible to have been caused by Johnson’s putter. Second, if they noticed the problem on the 5th hole, why did they wait until the 12th to say something? Third, why tell the players it is under review, why not make a decision on the spot? Not knowing what the score is greatly impacts how a player approaches a shot. If he is tied for example he may play safe on the last hole but if he is a shot down then he might play more aggressive. Finally and most importantly of all, having the “review” in the back of your mind just messes with your mindset for the rest of the round. That is just sick and twisted for the USGA to do that to one of the players. Johnson’s competitors took to Twitter and they didn’t hold back.

But you know what, it was everyone else who fell apart not him. Johnson did bogey 14, but made a few clutch putts for par and then, to top it off, he birdied the 18th hole to win his first major tournament. He was incorrectly assessed a penalty stroke and finished the tournament four under par. But all that doesn’t matter anymore. Dustin Johnson won. He is the one hoisting the trophy and it is his turn to laugh.

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