In the end, it was such a procession to a coronation that Dustin Johnson should have been borne on a palanquin to the 18th of Augusta.
Johnson can’t walk for real, can he? World No. 1 is strolling, strolling, strolling. But whatever you want to call it, yesterday he made a glorious march towards his first Masters victory.
Johnson put on a terrific, clinical show of top-notch golf that was filled with calm, mental strength and beautifully controlled course management on a day when the reigning champion, Tiger Woods, managed an astonishing 10 on the devilish par-3 12th hole.
It was a true masterclass, with the 36-year-old finishing at the top of his class. Fortunately, at the saccharine, ceremonial awards ceremony at Butler Cabin, Tiger did not need 10 attempts to present Johnson with the green jacket.
Johnson, born just 70 miles from Augusta in the neighboring state of South Carolina, remained as stoic as a maritime monument after a brief early wobble, and his final round of four-under-68 gave him a towering score of 20-under-268 and a five-stroke victory over Sungjae Im and plucky Cameron Smith, who became the first player to play four rounds in the 1960s and not win.
Johnson’s cumulative score at the Masters was the lowest ever, eclipsing the 18-stroke record set by Woods and Jordan Spieth. Johnson also became the world’s first No. 1 player to step into the most coveted blazer in golf since Woods in 2002.
The sight of him breaking into tears on the 18th hole for a golfer who appears to show no emotion, as his brother and caddy Austin wiped away a tear of joy revealed how much it meant to him. Next thing you know, they’re going to wring blood out of the rocks.
Before this belated Masters week, with only one major title on his resume and the unenviable record of having thrown away four 54-hole leads in golf spectacles, Johnson looked like a man on a mission. It was mission accomplished when he holed out for par on the final hole.
It’s a difficult day, it’s tough,”It’s a tough day, it’s tough to get it done at a major,”to get it done at a major. “I was nervous all day, I could feel it. This is the biggest for me, it’s what I wanted to win the most. I’m very proud. And for Tiger to put the jacket on me? It’s a dream.”
With a four-stroke lead, Johnson entered the final day, but in this game, such a lead can be as fragile as the Dead Sea Scrolls. In 1996, Greg Norman had a six-stroke cushion and lost. In 1979, Ed Sneed had a five-shot lead and was unable to complete the job, while both Rory McIlroy in 2011 and Ken Venturi in 1956 saw four-shot leads evaporate. For Johnson, there were plenty of historical warnings.
On the second hole, Johnson managed to save par with a beautifully executed up-and-down from the sand and it was a decisive moment as Smith, the mighty Australian, did his best to rattle Johnson with a few early birdies.
While the leader made up a stroke in the third round, after two bogeys on the fourth and fifth, Johnson found himself suddenly just one shot ahead. Johnson showed great stamina after losing just two shots all week and replied with a fine approach to 10 yards on the sixth that gave him a critical birdie. It was a shot that was decisive.
Im, who has a good rhythm and a fine short game, tried his best to keep up the pace, while on the seventh and ninth, Smith played two wonderful birdies from the fir straw to nip on Johnson’s heels. McIlroy, meanwhile, snuck through the back door, but after his ruinous 75 early in the tournament, he once again took too much time and sank an approach shot at the 15th into the water on his way to a round of 69, giving him a score of 11 under and a shared fifth place finish – his sixth top-10 finish in the last seven Masters. No one has been able to apprehend Johnson yet.
One of the best performances of the week came from Bernhard Langer, apart from the success of the eventual champion. The German golden oldie finished the week with a 63-stroke round of 71 and a 29th-place split, besting Bryson DeChambeau – yes, him, the one we made such a fuss about before the event – by one stroke.
And the Woods mentioned above? Yeah, well, well. The defending champion really got down on the wonderfully troublesome 12th hole, which has been the undoing of many – Tiger himself benefited from Francesco Molinari’s major mishit in 2019. Tat The Tat