Dustin Johnson is aware as anyone that he really should have won his first major by now, if not much at Whistling Straits in 2010 or Royal St George’s in 2011 then certainly at Chambers Bay last month when a 12-foot putt would have been enough to secure the US Open.
“You know, I knew I needed to make birdie,” he said on Monday about his experience on the par-five 18th. “The fairway on that hole was not very wide. I had to fit it between just right of that second bunker, and I hit the drive exactly where I wanted to. I hit the second shot right where I wanted to.
“I hit two great shots and unfortunately my ball – I don’t know how it stayed where it did, above the hole, and it was just a tough putt. I was trying to just – I was trying to make it, but I wanted it – if it went in, I wanted it to barely go in, and it still went four feet by. I hit a good putt on the way back, and it just bounced and missed left.”
The missed one on the way back cost him an 18-hole play-off with Jordan Spieth, a gaffe at Whistling Straits meant missing out on a play-off for the US PGA title with Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson after grounding a club in a sandy lie which was decreed to be a bunker, while at Sandwich he hit out of bounds trying to reach the par-five 14th in two and virtually handed the Claret Jug to Darren Clarke.
To blow it on the final green is the toughest one to handle, though, and the 31-year-old Johnson’s absence from the awards ceremony at Chambers Bay spoke volumes. “It was time to get out of there,” he said, adding that he did not realise his presence had been required and he flew to Idaho with the extended family for a break with friends. “I had had enough. I was ready to go. You know, I played really well that week. I was happy with the way I handled myself coming down the last few holes. I thought I hit the shots that I was supposed to hit. I did everything I was supposed to. It wasn’t too difficult to get over it.”
Johnson’s form either side of his six-month break taken late last year has seen him finish in the top eight of four of his past six majors and he takes that as a sign that he is getting even closer to major recognition. “It gives me the confidence to know I have what it takes to win. I think I showed that at the US Open so I’m excited to get this week started.”
To that end he has again spent the run-up preparing in Ireland, playing the links at Royal Dublin and Portmarnock, and is desperate to get started on the Old Course. “You’ve got to be able to use your imagination around here. It definitely helps the more times you play it to know the bounces and where to land the ball to get to certain flags and certain pins, where you want to be at in the fairway.”
And how does he view a string of near-misses which would haunt any player? “You know, it just depends on the way you want to look at it. I try to look at them all as learning opportunities. Each one helps me get closer to getting – to actually getting a major.”
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