Jun 21, 2015; University Place, WA, USA; Dustin Johnson reacts after missing his birdie putt on the 18th green in the final round of the 2015 U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
The dust has settled in the aftermath of an entertaining 2015 US Open. Many story lines emerged during the 115th rendition of the fabled major championship: Jason Day’s battle with vertigo; the steady decline of Tiger Woods; and the valiant attempt of lesser-known Branden Grace were all worthy. What stole the headlines, unjustifiably so in my opinion, was the “collapse” of Dustin Johnson.
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Johnson had the opportunity Sunday afternoon to send the tournament to a 18-hole Monday playoff. When he missed a 3-foot putt on the final hole, the tournament ended and Johnson was left with his third 2nd place finish in a major. He was also presumably left with a sour taste in his mouth that overshadows anything that was written in the media.
A number of factors might have played into Johnson losing a tournament that many feel he should have won. The subliminal ridicule that Johnson has received from multiple media sources is unfair for a man who saw one of the brightest opportunities of his young life slip through his fingers.
Let’s try to dissect what went wrong at Chamber’s Bay, and leave personal judgments aside.
Some have suggested that Johnson’s relationship, or lack there of, with his caddie might have had something to do with his failure at Chambers Bay. I believe the weight of this statement increases when you consider that Johnson’s caddie is also his younger brother Austin.
A caddie is supposed to exude confidence, give advice and provide a calming voice when the engine is running faster than the wheels can carry. I’m not totally sure that this is possible with your younger brother carrying the bag.
There’s little visible communication that goes on between the Johnsons, a stark comparison to the relationship you see between other players and their caddies. A player needs to respect the opinions of his caddie, because more often than not, the caddie knows the players game as well if not better than the player himself. And in the heat of battle, this outside viewpoint is a valuable weapon to have on a golf course. Whether or not this relationship is even possible with your younger brother is up for debate.
Lost in all of the scenarios and theories is the fact that Chambers Bay is a really, really hard golf course. And Dustin Johnson played it really, really well. He tied for 10th in fairways hit and was 8th overall in putting.
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Speaking of putting, players 3-putted a ridiculous 9% of the time (PGATour.com), a 6% increase from the tour average so far this year. Players complained all week about the conditions of the greens and everyone had their own instance of a bad hop, or an unlucky roll on the controversial greens.
Johnson hit 45 out of 56 fairways (PGATour.com), including a perfect 14 for 14 on Saturday.
His GIR left something to be desired as he finished tied for 30th in the field. This stat didn’t lose the tournament however. Is it actually possible that he didn’t lose the tournament at all, but was beat by the Golden Boy of the PGA?
Jordan Spieth has been chosen as the savior of the tour, as sponsors and club owners alike hope for a resurgence in fan interest that would rival that during Tiger’s era dominance of a decade ago. But instead of focusing on his greatness, the majority seems to be more apt to look at the fall of a Dark Knight.
It took Phil Mickelson 12 years to win his first major. DJ has been a pro for 5 years, and we are ready to label him a “choke artist” already. His well documented personal struggles have made it even easier to cast him as public enemy #1 on the golf course, even when he shows he has #1 talent.
The 2015 US Open resembled a Friday night blind date at the local miniature golf course at times. These conditions undoubtedly found their way into the players heads throughout the course of the tournament. Did this mindset cause DJ to pull the 3 footer he missed for birdie on 18?
Only Johnson knows and chances are, he’s not interested in telling any of us “experts.” I’m willing to bet that he’s OK with the inevitable criticism that he’ll get because of this perceived arrogance. I’m OK with it too.