Nothing Bothers Johnson as He Wins First Major with U.S. Open Title

2016 U.S. Open
OAKMONT, Pa. (EYT) – Nothing seemed to bother Dustin Johnson on his way to his first major championship.

(Photo – Dustin Johnson poses with the trophy after winning the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Sunday, June 19, 2016. (Copyright USGA/Jeff Haynes))

Not trailing by four shots going into the final round of the 116th U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club.

Not the fact that no one seemed 100 percent sure what his score was from the 12th hole on.

Not the pressure of fast failures at major championships.

Johnson shot a 1-under 69 Sunday to win the U.S. Open by three shots over Jim Furyk, Scott Piercy and Shane Lowry, who led by four shots coming into the day but recorded seven bogeys on his way to a 6-over par round of 76 Sunday.

“Obviously, winning any tournament, there’s a lot of satisfaction,” Johnson said. “But to get it done in a major, especially since I’ve been so close so many times, it’s just an unbelievable feeling. I don’t even … it’s hard to even describe. It’s starting to sink in.”

A year ago, Johnson looked poised to capture the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash. With nine holes to go in that championship, he had a two-shot lead, and going into the 18th hole, he needed a birdie to force an 18-hole playoff and an eagle to win. But he missed the eagle putt and then missed the 3-foot birdie putt and lost.

This year, he was on the opposite side of that feeling.

Trailing Lowry by four shots, 203-207, coming into Round Four, and in a second-place tie with Andrew Landry, Johnson was playing with Lee Westwood, one group in front of the final pairing of Lowry and Landry.

And he started strong, birding the par 3 second hole that Lowry soon bogeyed to get within two shots.

Then, after Johnson birdied No. 9 and Lowry bogeyed the par-4 ninth hole, everyone thought Johnson had a one-stroke lead at 5-under par.

But controversy loomed.

At the par-4 fifth hole, as Johnson practiced his putt, his ball moved every so slightly. He quickly self-reported to an official, who, at the time cleared him of any wrongdoing – if he caused the ball to move, he would be penalized one shot.

But after finishing the par-4 11th hole, Johnson was notified by PGA officials that after closer video examination of what took place on No. 5, he may be punished one stroke.

“On the fifth green, the rules official, I called him over and told him what happened,” Johnson said. “Lee (Westwood) was standing right there. He saw it. So, we both agreed I didn’t cause the ball to move. I just played on from there with no penalty.”

While Johnson and Westwood didn’t believe Johnson had caused the ball to move, the PGA officials had a different thought after watching the video.

“I was out as a rover shadowing the last few groups,” PGA official Jeff Hall said. “I received a message from one of our staff who saw the video, came in to review the video and certainly was concerned. Thomas (Pagel) being our lead rules expert, I wanted him to look at it as well. By the time we were able to do that, Dustin had already played through the front nine and was headed down the 10th hole and was coming back down 11. We agreed we were concerned about what we saw and felt obligated to have a conversation with Dustin about it. The 12th tee presented the best opportunity to do that. We had that conversation with Dustin. We told him that what we saw was a concern, but we also asked him a couple of questions. We effectively (asked) was there something else that could have caused the ball to move?”

Pagel said Johnson had ground his putter near the ball on two occasions (on No. 5), and it shortly after he ground his putter the second time that the ball moved.

“In weighing the evidence, the interpretation of this rule tells us it’s not free of doubt,” Pagel said. “It’s not going to be 100 percent clear. Yes, the player caused the ball to move. But it’s not the standard we’re dealing with. We’re dealing with the standard what is the cause of the ball’s movement? If it’s more likely than not what was the cause of the ball movement? If you think in percentage terms, 51 percent chance or greater that the player caused the ball to move. As a committee, when we removed the tape, we looked at it and said, given the timing of his actions and the ball moved, it was more likely than not that Dustin was the cause of the movement. Again, there’s doubt there, and we understand not everyone is going to agree with that. But the standard is not 100 percent. It’s more likely than not.”

While the PGA believed Johnson had caused the ball to move, nothing was changed on the scoreboard either at the course, in the media center nor on-line.

Thus, while everyone believed Johnson to be up two shots at the time of the meeting on No. 12 with him and the PGA officials, he was possibly up by just a shot.

That became more important when Lowry birdied the par-5 12th hole while Johnson shot par. The scoreboard showed Johnson up one, but via the PGA ruling the tournament was tied with just six holes to play and stayed tied after both men shot par on the par-3 13th hole, although, again, the scoreboard had Johnson up one.

“Certainly, with Thomas and myself, our concern was about the conduct of the competition and working through that,” Hall said. “We’re focused right here on getting the conduct of competition right, making sure we get the proper answer.”

Pagel said it’s not uncommon for a score to be changed once a golfer is finished with his round.

“At all levels of play, there are plenty of situations where rulings are handled within the scoring area,” Pagel said. “It’s not like it’s uncommon for a penalty to be applied within the scoring area. Just happened to be at the U.S. Open today.

“Our concern today is we weighed the evidence and looked at it. We wanted to make sure that Dustin had the benefit of the conversation, and we wanted the make sure we got it right.”

Hall said Johnson and the other golfers were notified of the situation.

“Like every situation has its own unique circumstances, and we feel pretty comfortable with the process that we had to resolve this one,” Hall said. “We did notify the other players before Dustin finished the 12th hole. Thomas was the one who handled it. He put out an all call to the other referees, and we verbally advised each player what could happen, so they had the same benefit as Dustin did, so they’d know there could be an issue. So we did communicate appropriately with the other players.

“Again, when we had the conversation with Dustin on the 12th tee, it was clear we needed additional conversation. Furthermore, we wanted him to see – he didn’t have the benefit of looking at the video. We had already seen the video. And we had an opportunity and an obligation, we felt, to explain the rule, and doing that in the middle of the 12th tee just didn’t seem like an appropriate time.”

After both golfers bogeyed No. 14, to theoretically remain tied, although the scoreboard still had Johnson up one, things started to fall apart for Lowry when he bogeyed No. 15 to fall two shots – or was it one shot – behind. He then bogeyed No. 16 to fall behind even farther

“I really feel like I let it go today,” Lowry said. “It’s a great disappointment. The more I think about it, the more upset I’m getting. It’s one of those that’s going to be hard to take. It’s going to be a tough few days.”

Down two shots – although again everyone thought it was three – going to the 17th tee, Johnson’s walk from the 16th green to the 17th tee showed a man who looked like he had realized he had just lost the U.S. Open. He had a dejected facial expression and wore his hat up high on his head, almost half off, like so many weekend duffers do after a bad round.

But the Irishman insisted he didn’t really believe he had lost until he shot par on No. 17, the same as Johnson, to remain what turned out to be two shots off the lead.

“I thought, if I birdied 17, I’d give myself a chance birdieing the last, and Dustin was 4 under in the last, and I was thinking, if he gets penalized a shot and whatever, I could, but I (saw) as I was walking up on the green (his shot) 250 yards right in the middle of the fairway.

“Obviously, fair play for Dustin. He’s been in my shoes a few times now. I’m happy for him. He’s a great guy. Him and his brother Austin are two great fellas. He’s definitely one of the top players. He’s done really well. He deserved it. He played the best golf this week.”

After birdieing No. 18, Johnson hugged his brother, Austin, his caddie, then went over and picked up his son, Tatum, and celebrated with his fiancee, Paulina Gretzky.

Dustin Johnson celebrates with his caddie, Austin Johnson, on the 18th hole after winning the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Sunday, June 19, 2016. (Copyright USGA/JD Cuban)

Dustin Johnson celebrates with his caddie, Austin Johnson, on the 18th hole after winning the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Sunday, June 19, 2016. (Copyright USGA/JD Cuban)

I’ve got a great support system with Paulina, my son Tatum, my family, my team that’s around me, a great support system,” Johnson said. “So it’s been a great road. I’m definitely a stronger person coming out the other side.”

Dustin Johnson, center, holds his son Tatum as wife Paulina walks with them after Johnson won the U.S. Open Championship during the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Sunday, June 19, 2016. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)

Dustin Johnson, center, holds his son Tatum as wife Paulina walks with them after Johnson won the U.S. Open Championship during the final round of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pa. on Sunday, June 19, 2016. (Copyright USGA/Darren Carroll)

While the story was about Johnson’s charge and Lowry’s fade, Furyk and his Western Pennsylvania roots had a fantastic fourth round to forge into the second-place tie.

Sitting in a tie for 21st place coming into the final round, Furyk shot a fourth-round best 66 thanks to five birdies on the first 17 holes. He would have taken second all for himself if not for a bogey on No. 18.

“I played my heart out today,” Furyk said. “I’m disappointed I missed the fairway at 18. But, I look back, it was my front nine yesterday. I shoot 6 over. That’s where – and I didn’t do a lot wrong. I missed one fairway, No. 4. I parred that hole. I don’t know how I screwed it up from the fairway so bad. Oakmont has a way to turn pars into bogeys and bogeys into doubles. It all kind of happened to me in nine holes.”

Piercy also had a solid fourth round shooting a 69 as well to make it a 3-way tie for second.

“I felt like I played great,” Piercy said. “I got a little unlucky on 16, where the ball came back and three putted there. I hit good putts, and then on 17, you’re trying to catch it up. I felt like I put it in good positions all day. It’s hard to attack the flags, the greens being as fast as they were. But I felt like I controlled myself and controlled the ball. I felt like I rolled the putter really well today too. So a lot of positives out of this week, and look forward.”

The top four golfers were the only ones to finish the tournament under par, as the drier weekend weather turned Oakmont into its usual beast.

Getting caught in that beast Sunday were Landry and Westwood.

Landry, who started the day four shots off the lead, shot an 8-over par 78 in the final round to finish in a tie for 15th place. He had an especially tough day on the front nine where he shot 7-over par.

“I missed a lot of shots right, which I got those on the first few tee shots,” Landry said. I just couldn’t really get it together, couldn’t get a good feel for the golf swing out there but finally figured it out.”

Westwood, meanwhile, was even worse shooting a 10-over par 80 to finish in tied for 32nd place. This after shooting 1-under par 69 in round three.

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