Dustin Johnson Flips the Script With U.S. Open Win

Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports /

With a U.S. Open title under his belt, Dustin Johnson is an underachiever no more.

Dustin Johnson finally closed the deal, and in a very big way! Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Tom Petty may have said it best: “The waiting is the hardest part.”

For Dustin Johnson and his many fans, those lyrics certainly ring true. Before arriving at Oakmont last week, the soon-to-be 32-year-old American had suffered through a number of agonizingly close calls at the majors as well as a fair bit of controversy, building up a career’s worth of scar tissue in the process. Along the way, his on-course demeanor and drive were constantly called into question, with many doubting that he had the mental makeup of a major champion.

And yet, none of it mattered on Sunday evening. Johnson, three strokes clear of the chasing pack by round’s end, finally got to hoist one of the most coveted trophies in the sport as his country’s national champion. It was a long-awaited payoff for one of the biggest talents in golf, something that will finally overshadow all the heartbreak of past majors.

You know the stories well enough by now. The closing 82 at Pebble Beach. The two-stroke penalty at Whistling Straits. The missed three-footer at Chambers Bay. Each one was excruciating to watch in its own way, but the result was the same: another near miss for one of the best in the game.

In this way, Johnson’s career was starting to look an awful lot like those of Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia. The two Europeans are immensely talented players with dozens of worldwide wins between them, but they’ve never been able to take home any of the big four. It certainly hasn’t been for a lack of trying – Westwood has 18 career top 10s at the majors, Garcia 21. The plot has become all too familiar: they get themselves into great position on Sunday afternoon, only to fade down the stretch.

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Before his week at Oakmont, Dustin Johnson was, in a similar way, known more for his close calls than his triumphs. Everything is different now, though – the Coastal Carolina product’s career arc now resembles that of an all-time great player: Phil Mickelson.

Once upon a time, Lefty held the title of Best Player to Never Win a Major. Fast forward twelve years – he’s got five and is among the greatest to ever play the PGA Tour, on the same level as legends like Lee Trevino and Byron Nelson. If Mickelson can win his first major at age 33 and go on to have a career like that, there’s no reason why Johnson can’t do something similar.

It goes back to what the legendary Jack Nicklaus explained during FOX’s final round broadcast at Oakmont: once a player takes his first major, they get easier to win. Johnson looks like a prime candidate to go on an extended run and, yes, unseat Jason Day as the No. 1 player in the world.

In a way, it’s a bit strange to think of Johnson as a major champion. He’s always been a groomsman, never a groom – most casual fans got their first glimpse of him when he imploded at the 2010 U.S. Open. Dustin Johnson’s Oakmont triumph totally flipped the script. No longer can we think of him as someone who can’t close, because he’s finally proven that he can.

Next: Oakmont Produces Worthy U.S. Open Champion

The story of Dustin Johnson may have taken a sharp left turn, but for all we know, he’s just getting started. At the 2004 Masters, Phil Mickelson finally won his first green jacket, putting to rest years of doubters and critics. At Oakmont in 2016, Dustin Johnson had his Mickelson moment – and it could be the start of something big.