When Dustin Johnson lipped out for par at Augusta National’s par-3 fourth hole, then found the fairway bunker at the fifth, the collective golf world had the exact same thought: “Oh my God, it’s happening again.”
“It” would be another Major… um, how do we put this nicely… choke from Johnson. Choke may sound strong, but that’s the only way to describe what Johnson has done on numerous occasions with the lead on a Sunday at a Major. Yes, he’s had his share of bad breaks too, but there’s no dancing around the fact that he’s thrown a few away.
He went on to bogey the fifth after finding the fairway bunker, his lead shrinking to one shot after beginning the day with a four-shot edge. This was Harding Park, Chambers Bay, Pebble Beach, Whistling Straits and Royal St George’s (the one we often forget about) all over again. Another car crash that we couldn’t look away from.
Turns out, it was anything but. It was actually Oakmont all over again, with Johnson showing the resolve that keeps him coming back to the top of the leaderboard in the biggest events year after year, despite all the scar tissue he’s accumulated. After the back-to-back bogeys, Johnson went directly at the flag at the par-3 sixth, sticking it to seven feet and holing the birdie putt to get back to 16-under.
From there, the world No.1 put on an absolute clinic in how to play with a lead, plodding his way to par after par and making birdies on the holes that required it. He was by no means playing scared. It was an incredible tactical display, one that led to a four-under 68 and a 20-under total, the lowest in relation to par in Masters history.
“The Masters to me is the biggest tournament, it’s the one I wanted to win the most,” Johnson said in Butler Cabin. “I felt it all day. Just really proud of how I handled myself and finished off the tournament.”
Johnson now has two Major victories, solidifying himself as an all-time great with an all-time great Majors resume.
“It still feels like a dream. As I kid, dreaming about winning the Masters, having Tiger put the green jacket on you, it still feels like a dream. What a great feeling it is. Couldn’t be more excited.”
Not much about 2020 has felt right. But Dustin Johnson exorcising some serious Major demons and winning the Masters feels very right.
Here are four other takeaways from the 2020 Masters.
Cameron Smith makes Masters history, still loses
No, he did not win, but Cameron Smith still had one of the weeks of his life at the 2020 Masters. He shot all four rounds in the 60s, something no one had ever done in the history of the tournament. And… he lost by five. That’s how well Dustin Johnson played. Smith shouldn’t feel too discouraged considering Johnson does that to his peers often, but it still has to be a little crushing. It wasn’t like he shot 69-69-69-69 and finished eight behind. He finished at 15-under, good enough to win 15 of the past 18 Masters.
“Yeah that’s pretty cool. I didn’t realise that until you told me,” said Smith when hearing of his record-breaking performance. “Lot of good scrambling this week, not many bogeys, managed to get through pretty good.
“DJ was just too good at the end.”
Yes he was, Cam. Yes he was.
Sungjae Im made history, too
Incredibly, Smith was almost not alone in accomplishing historical Masters feats. Sungjae Im nearly did it too, shooting rounds of 66, 70, 68 and today’s three-under 69, which tied him at 15-under with Smith and made the 22-year-old South Korean the lowest-scoring Masters rookie ever. So much for needing experience around Augusta National. This guy is going to be a force in the game for the next two decades.
Not much noise from the big names chasing
If you were looking for final-round drama, Dustin Johnson robbed the 2020 Masters of any of it. But you have to wonder how he would have reacted to seeing a name like Justin Thomas or Rory McIlroy making a real charge up the leaderboard. That just did not happen. Sure, McIlroy got to the 10th tee at 11-under, but he finished on that number. Thomas played his first seven holes in one-over, killing his chances rather quickly. He was able to make a back-nine run to shoot 70, but finished eight behind. Jon Rahm (71, 10-under) and Brooks Koepka (70, 10-under) got off to equally slow starts, which was the opposite of what was required to make DJ sweat. Again, knowing what we know now, even a 62 or 63 from a chaser wouldn’t have been enough, but it still would have made things far more interesting than they were.
Abraham Ancer will surely win by the end of 2021
Ancer got bit by the “this stage might be a little too big” bug today, shooting an ugly four-over 76 to fall into a tie for 13th. But we have little doubt the 2018 Australian Open champion will get his maiden PGA Tour victory in 2021, and it will more than likely be in a big-time event. The 21st-ranked player in the world has put himself in these situations countless times. These experiences can only help his chances at finishing off a win soon.