For a minute there, it looked like Dustin Johnson was going to win the 115th U.S. Open. At worst, he would be going to an 18-hole playoff against Jordan Spieth Monday at Chambers Bay. And then, Johnson missed the putt… from three feet away.
It was another stunning loss for Johnson, who also lost the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, on a technicality involving the gallery and a bunker. That was bad luck. I’m not sure what this was. Some will call it a choke. I hate to use that word, and I don’t think it was. But Dustin Johnson should have taken his time and made that putt.
Instead, it’s the 21-year-old Spieth who’s on top of the world again. He’s the youngest man to win two major championships since Gene Sarazen did it in 1922 at age 20. He’s the youngest Open Champion since Bobby Jones (who was also 21) in 1923. And he’s the 6th different player to win the Masters and the U.S. Open in the same year, and the first since Tiger Woods did it in 2002 at Bethpage Black.
“I don’t know right now. I’m in shock,” said Spieth in a drive-by interview right after Johnson missed his putt. “I watched it with Michael (Greller, his caddy) in there and just wanted a fighting chance tomorrow. I feel bad for Dustin. I had that feeling on 17. Just proud of the way that we rebounded on 18.”
If he wasn’t already a star, Spieth now heads to next month’s Open Championship at St. Andrews halfway to the immortal calendar Grand Slam. But it almost didn’t turn out that way.
Spieth looked like he had it wrapped-up after rolling-in a 25-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole, turning toward Puget Sound before he pumped his fist. With Branden Grace hitting a tee shot out-of-bounds onto the railroad tracks to make double bogey, Spieth had a three-shot lead.
And then he didn’t. After pushing his tee shot on the Par 3 17th well right into the fescue-covered mounds, Spieth missed the biggest two-putt of his career and made a double-bogey five. Suddenly, he was just one shot ahead of Johnson, playing in the group immediately behind. Johnson birdied 17 to tie Spieth at four-under.
Then on the 601-yard Par 5 18th hole, Spieth had to hit a 3-wood into the green just to give himself a chance at eagle. He would settle for birdie to get to five-under, and then it was Johnson’s turn to match. Johnson hit his drive so far that he only needed a 5-iron to get home in two. The man with a gunslinger’s gait who didn’t miss a single fairway all day Saturday had an eagle putt of 12’4″ to win the U.S. Open outright – and then he three-putted. No playoff. No victory. Just par.
Spieth is the first player since Bobby Jones to make birdie on the 72nd hole to win the U.S. Open by one shot, all because of Johnson’s three-putt. For Johnson, it was a terrible first Father’s Day, and it all came undone with his famous future father-in-law Wayne Gretzky watching. How’s that for a little added pressure?
Of Johnson’s four major heartaches, this was by far the worst. No, he didn’t shoot 82 in the final round like he did at Pebble Beach in the 2010 U.S. Open. And no, he didn’t ground his club in a bunker that cost him a spot in the 2010 PGA Championship playoff at Whistling Straights. He didn’t even hit a shot out-of-bounds like he did in the 2011 British Open. But 12 feet from a win, three putts and Johnson lost.
“Just missed it left,” Johnson said.