Dustin Hunter Johnson, a 36-year-old professional golfer from South Carolina, won the most recent edition of The Masters over the weekend. He used four strong rounds to outpace two international players by five strokes.
Okay, that was a pretty boring opening for such a prominent tournament, being played under unprecedented circumstances, but we think it’s appropriate, given that in his dominant wire-to-wire triumph, he made an event that, at the halfway point, had five players (including the top-3 in the world rankings) in a tie for the lead, a boring rout.
Dustin Johnson is so good, that he draws you to sleep when he is at his best.
Johnson came into the final round with a four stroke lead, and barely blinked on Sunday, shooting a 4-under 68 to reach 20-under and set a new tournament record, while tying a major record. It was the 24th career victory of his stellar career, but shockingly, just his second major championship and his first green jacket.
Normally, The Masters is a staple of April, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused mass reshuffling that pushed it to November. In addition, instead of a plethora of fans, there were none. The event well-illustrated the uncertain current era, not just of sports, but of the world. The absurd amount of fans that should have there were watching from home.
Johnson, referred to often as “DJ”, was nowhere near a surprise winner. He came into the week as the No. 1 golfer in the Official World Golf Rankings, and in his last six starts had two victories, three runner-ups, and a T6. He had been the best version of himself.
Still, DJ has a history of struggling to close majors. At the beginning of this tournament, he had 19 career top 10 finishes, with 10 of those being top-5s, in majors, but his only victory was at the 2016 U.S. Open. With how tremendous he has been for so long, he faced constant criticism for not racking up more major trophies.
But this week, he was different. He opened with a 7-under 65 in November conditions that made the greens softer than usual, and held at least a co-lead for every other round, despite a myriad of elite competitors on his heels.
Scoring was low, considerably lower than the typical April results. One of the co-runner ups, Aussie Cameron Smith was the first player in Masters history, a tournament that dates back to 1934, to shoot all four rounds at Augusta National in the 60s… and he still lost by five strokes. The other man at 15-under, 22-year-old South Korean Sungjae Im, also reached runner-up status, despite it being his first attempt at an event where first-timers almost always struggle,
Still, Johnson played the same course as everyone else, but did it much better. DJ opened with two pars before a birdie on 3. Then, the only time all day he looked anything resembling vulnerable, carded back-to-back bogeys on 4 and 5, and allowed Im to get within a shot. Those who had been present for his most significant major failures, and there have been many, were thinking “here we go again”.
However, the new Dustin Johnson would not bogey another hole for the rest of the day. He birdied 6 and 8 to make the turn at 1-under. After a modest start to the back nine, Johnson recorded three consecutive birdies – 13, 14, and 15 – to essentially put the tournament out of reach. Down the stretch, Smith was the closest thing he had to a competitor, but the 27-year-old, who had obliterated the back nine on the first three days, played the final nine holes this time in even par. With two holes left, the tournament felt over.
It was a spectacle seeing Johnson win the green jacket, even without the fans flooding him. His long-time fiancee, Paulina Gretzky, and yes, she’s the daughter of THAT Gretzky, was there to celebrate with him on the final hole. Notoriously stoic, even DJ teared up during post-round interviews, something Tour fans believed he was incapable of. It was a real turning point in an already-amazing career for Johnson.
After Smith and Im, the closest golfer to DJ was former world No. 1 Justin Thomas, who finished eight strokes back at 12-under. Rory McIlroy, who would have been the sixth golfer ever to complete the career grand slam with a victory, and South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli rounded out the top 5. It was McIlroy’s 12th top 10 finish in a major since his last victory, which occurred at the 2014 PGA Championship.
Final Top 10 Leaders
Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Dustin Johnson -20 (-4)
2. Cameron Smith (-3)
2. Sungjae Im -15 (-3)
4. Justin Thomas -12 (-2)
5. Rory McIlroy -11 (-3)
5. Dylan Frittelli -11 (E)
7. C.T. Pan -10 (-4)
7. Brooks Koepka -10 (-2)
7. Jon Rahm -10 (-1)
10. Webb Simpson -9 (-4)
10. Corey Conners -9 (-3)
10. Patrick Reed -9 (E)
13. Hideki Matsuyama -8
17. Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay -7
19. Scottie Scheffler, Tommy Fleetwood -6
23. Louis Oosthuizen, Justin Rose -5
25. Danny Willett, Shane Lowry -4
29. Bernhard Langer, Rickie Fowler -3
34. Adam Scott, Bryson DeChambeau -2
38. Tiger Woods, Tony Finau -1
44. Collin Morikawa E
46. Jordan Spieth +1
51. Zach Johnson +2
55. Phil Mickelson +3
57. Bubba Watson +4
How Dustin Johnson Won The Masters
Dustin Johnson went into the week red-hot. He even missed time after a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, but finished T2 in last week’s Vivant Houston Open. In six starts since a T12 at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitation in the first week of August, his WORST start was a T6 at the PGA Championship. He obliterated the FedExCup playoffs, and his late-season efforts got him named the PGA Tour Player of the Year.
At Augusta, he showed very little weakness. He opened with a 65 and added another 65 on Saturday, making him the only player in tournament history to post two rounds of 65 or better. He had a four-stroke lead going into the final round, but had an issue of struggling to close majors, including The Masters. He had finished in the top 10 in his previous four Masters starts, including a T2 to Tiger Woods in April of 2019.
For the week, he had two eagles, and his 20 birdies was fifth best in the field. In addition, he had just four bogeys, the best number in the field. He always drives well, but his approach game was stellar, and even his wedges, which have been hit-or-miss were on.
DJ’s Winning Numbers
Score: -20/268 (Masters Record)
Driving: 320.0 yards (2nd)
Fairways: 38/56, 67.86% (29th)
Greens: 65/72, 90.28% (1st)
Putts/GIR: 1.600 (1st)
Scores: 5 Eagles, 23 Birdies, 41 Pars, 3 Bogeys
What It Means For Johnson
With at least one victory in each of his 14 full-time seasons on Tour, Dustin Johnson was at no risk of losing his card or not being exempt for something any time soon. He was No.1 in the world rankings, and this extends his lead on No. 2 Jon Rahm.
This was critical for his legacy, however. Despite all his victories, with his 24 tying the legendary Gary Player for 25th in Tour history, just one major seemed wrong. Now he has two, and while it could still be argued that someone with his talent should have more, this should relax him and quiet the critics.
DJ’s 2021 Season
Cuts Made: 3
Wins: 1 (Masters)
Addtl Top 10s: 2 (T2, T6)
Earnings: $3,117,040 (1st)
FedEx Pts: 950 (1st)
World Rank Before/After: 1/1
Tiger Woods: What Was That?
Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters tournament in thrilling fashion 19 months ago, when The Masters was last played. Looking to add to his 15 career majors, but struggling as of late, Tiger opened with a 4-under 68. A pedestrian 71-72 over the next two rounds took him out of contention, and Sunday was mostly window shopping for him.
Disaster happened to Tiger on 12. He hit THREE balls into the water and carded a septuple-bogey 10 on the par 3. His previous worst score on a par 3 was a 6.
But something in that failure motivated him down the stretch. The 43-year-old birdied the very next hole, and then added another on 15, 16, 17, and 18. In the end, he shot a 4-over 76 that could have been much worse. He finished in a tie for 38th place. He will need to work considerably on his putting before the Tour reconvenes at Augusta next April.
Rory McIlroy opened with a 3-over 75 on Thursday that saw many red numbers. The former world No. 1, as recently as this summer, was on the verge of missing the cut, which is unacceptable for a player of his caliber who has won each of the other three majors at least three times.
However, McIlroy hit it into high gear with a Friday 66 to make the cut, and then a round three 67 to get into 10th place going into the final round, although eight strokes back of Johnson. He kept the momentum going into Sunday, playing his front nine in 3-under to sneak onto the fringes of contention. Five strokes back was as close as he would get though, as an even-par back meant a 3-under 69 and a tie for fifth place.
DJ’s 68 tied for the lowest round in the Sunday field, and one of the players to tie him was Australia’s Marc Leishman, who reached 8-under for the week and finished T13. It was extremely impressive given that he finished 30(!) over-par at the BMW Championship, the second round of the FedExCup playoffs and had been a disaster since the Tour re-start.
In his most recent start, he finished T70 at the ZOZO Championship @ Sherwood. This should give his ailing game considerable confidence going forward. His final round included two eagles.
The other 68 came from Taiwan’s C.T. Pan, who jumped from T15 to T7 on the final day. Pan had four birdies over his final six holes, for the first top 10 of his major career. In nine previous major starts, he had missed seven cuts, and had not finished better than T45.
To avoid competing with NFL football and not wanting to battle daylight, players were grouped in threes for the final round, hitting off alternate tees. The final group composed of Johnson, Im, and Mexico’s Abraham Ancer, a star at the President’s Cup who was still looking for his first career victory.
In his first major contention, Ancer was terrible, and after bogeys on Nos. 3, 4, 7, and 8 was way out of the mix. After being just one of two players to shoot in the 60s for each of his first three rounds (Cameron Smith was the other), Ancer shot a 4-over 76 to drop from T2 to T13.
England’s Tommy Fleetwood is still looking for his first major, and his first win on U.S. soil, but after getting himself in the mix earlier in the week, he struggled in round 4, shooting a 2-over 74 that dropped him from T10 to T19. He bogeyed four holes in his final round.
Paul Casey, who finished runner-up to Collin Morikawa at the recent PGA Championship, opened up Augusta with a 7-under 65 to tie for the 18-hole lead. A Friday 74 followed by a 71 took him out of contention to win his first major at 43 years of age. He was much worse on Sunday, somehow playing the four par 5s in five-over (two double bogeys, one bogey, one par), and plummeted from T15 to T38 in the final standings.
Erasing the Doubts
“Well, I proved that I can get it done on Sunday with the lead at a major, especially in tough conditions. There were doubts in my mind, just because I had been there. I have been in this position a lot of times, like when am I going to have the lead and finish off a major? For me, it definitely proved that I could do it.”
– Dustin Johnson, Masters Champion
Final Money, Points, Scores
Augusta National Golf Club | Augusta, GA | Nov 12-15, 2020