DJ! Oakmont Produced Worthy U.S. Open Champion

Jun 19, 2016; Oakmont, PA, USA; Dustin Johnson poses for a photo with the championship trophy after winning the U.S. Open golf tournament at Oakmont Country Club. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 19, 2016; Oakmont, PA, USA; Dustin Johnson poses for a photo with the championship trophy after winning the U.S. Open golf tournament at Oakmont Country Club. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports /

In the end, DJ survived the physical and mental tests Oakmont dished out and proved himself a worthy U.S. Open champion!

DJ has at last hoisted a major championship trophy. Oakmont proved the quintessential testing ground for his dramatic change in fortune on a Sunday afternoon.

Despite the threat of the USGA ruling against Dustin Johnson on less than clear evidence of a rules infraction, Oakmont Country Club produced a quality champion.  DJ was far enough ahead and the field fell far enough back that the penalty stroke – when it finally came – just didn’t matter in the end.

Johnson overcame a tough golf course, a quality field and a questionable rules decision and most likely earned thousands of fans in the process.  He also unleashed a twitter-storm of comments about the ruling from PGA Tour players.

“It feels really great. After last year, to come back this year and perform like this, you know, it definitely, I think it shows what kind of golfer I am and, you know, it was awesome,” DJ said to media about winning.

According to Johnson, he said the USGA informed him at the 12th hole that they were going to look at the ball movement when play concluded.

“I felt like I wasn’t going to be penalized, so I just went about my business,” DJ explained. “Just focused on the drive on 12 and from there on out, that we’d deal with (it) when we got done.”

Little did he know.  Little did anyone know when the day began.

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At the outset, things looked perfect. It was an ideal, back-yard barbeque Father’s Day with blue skies, puffy clouds and low humidity.  Power boaters roared up and down the Alleghany River towing water skiers, oblivious to the thousands of fans lining fairways a few blocks inland.

The tournament ticket-holders, of course, were waiting to see if the pressure of a trying to win a U.S. Open would get to the two relatively unknown golfers at the top, Irishman Shane Lowry at 7- under and Texan Andrew Landry at 3-under par.

Sunscreen had been applied.  Comfortable shoes were on. All that remained was the closing of the most recent chapter in U.S. Open history. Someone’s life would change for the better by the end of the day. It just wasn’t a smooth ending.

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  • While the leaders were not the ones expected, they seldom are at big events. Gone were Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson, all victims of the tough course.

    Well down the leaderboard were Jason Day and Jordan Spieth, unlikely to post a low enough score to matter.

    Instead of the more familiar names, it was the lesser known Lowry and Landry, who might have been an accounting firm two weeks ago, but on U.S. Open Sunday became headliners.  They were followed by the bridesmaid pairing of Lee Westwood and DJ, both of whom had been close to major victories multiple times without being able to take the titles.

    The course, which endured a seemingly unrelenting series of storms on Thursday, had not played as hard and fast as the USGA – and apparently the members at Oakmont – wanted. On Sunday, the powers in control finally got the stimpmeter to read 14.8, at least according to what golf announcers said.

    While it’s great fun to root for the underdog, at major championships the underdog seldom wins because they know what veteran U.S. Open watchers and golfers also know:  When you are trying to win your first major, it’s more than likely that you will make mistakes and not win it. That opens the door for guys who are farther back with more experience. Guys like DJ, Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Jason Day. Guys who can come from a few shots back and win.

    So historically, the chances that Lowry or Landry would win were not good, but they were leading at the beginning of the day. Had Lowry shot even par, he would have won.  That’s how hard a U.S. Open is.

    Those behind, Johnson, Westwood, Furyk, Garcia and the rest, had to hope the leaders would be eaten alive by the monster of a golf course that, over the decades, has made so many look foolish with its impossible greens, treacherous bunkers and peculiarly slanted fairways.

    Jim Furyk, U.S. Open champ in 2003, made four birdies in the first 11 holes, but missed some putts coming home.  He could have scared the leaders if he had been able to get into the clubhouse at 3-under.  In the end, he fell away with bogeys.

    “Really did a good job other than 15 or 18, where I drove the ball in the rough, both times to the right, very similar swings,” he said to media afterward. “The one regret, I wish I’d have got that ball on the fairway at 18. It would have been a little more exciting.”

    Sergio Garcia birdied four, five and eight, and he was within four shots of the lead, but he could not get closer.

    “It’s been a while since I’ve been in a major four rounds out there in contention. So it was great. It was a great experience. Obviously, there’s a lot of nerves, but I really enjoyed it,” Garcia said when he finished. “I think that I handled it quite well, and unfortunately, came up a little bit short. But I’m still happy with it, with the week.”

    Garcia also got Audubon bonus points for rescuing a baby bird.

    DJ, who was four shots behind at the beginning of the day, pummeled the course with long drives, mostly into fairways. He hit 36 of 56 fairways, 18th for the week.

    Johnson led greens in regulation, perhaps because his drives were so long that he hit wedge into many of them. His total was 55 of 72 greens.

    DJ basically turned the venerable old course into a pitch and putt because he hit so many wedges into par fours.  Sorry to say it, but the next time a U.S. Open is played here, even the 667-yard 12th hole may be reachable it two.

    As far as the ruling goes, he just said, “It doesn’t matter now, but — and I’m glad it didn’t matter because that would have been bad. But, you know, it worked out.”

    Next: 10 Best Golfers Without a Major Championship

    How will DJ follow up on this remarkable comeback victory? Follow ProGolfNow on Twitter and like our Facebook page to get up-to-date commentary on pro golf events, DJ, and other players throughout the season.