It was nothing short of phenomenal for Dustin Johnson to come back from the disappointment of last year at Chambers Bay – and the fuss around his delayed penalty this time – to win the US Open on Sunday night.
Johnson, who missed the chance to win a first Major 12 months ago when he three-putted the last hole, is one of the nicest guys on the circuit – and probably one of the most laidback you’ll ever meet.
You could take a hot poker to the American and he probably wouldn’t flinch, and he drew on that character when told he would have to finish his final round at Oakmont with the threat of a one-stroke penalty hanging over him.
That decision – for making his ball move when preparing to putt at the fifth hole – drew widespread criticism, including from stars Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth.
This is ridiculous... No penalty whatsoever for DJ. Let the guy play without this crap in his head. Amateur hour from @USGA— Rory McIlroy (@McIlroyRory) June 19, 2016
Lemme get this straight.. DJ doesn't address it. It's ruled that he didn't cause it to move. Now you tell him he may have? Now? This a joke?— Jordan Spieth (@JordanSpieth) June 19, 2016
But while commentators and Twitter were up in arms, Johnson remained the least flustered of anyone. In the closing stages he always stayed ahead of his rivals and handled the situation superbly.
His drive to the 18th green – which effectively ensured his three-shot victory – was sublime. That is the way to win a Major and he did it magnificently.
USGA decision was fine
Tournament organisers the USGA were in a difficult position over Johnson’s penalty. Unfortunately in certain circumstances there isn’t a lot you can do and I think the way they acted was fine.
They had to show Johnson the video from the fifth green before imposing a sanction, and they had to wait until the end of the round to do so; they couldn’t just whisk him off the course mid-round.
Equally, he needed to know before the end of the round that he might have a penalty, so that’s why they warned him at the 12th. In his own mind, at that point he would have assumed that it was coming and adjusted his mindset accordingly.
In the end it seemed to affect Shane Lowry far more. The Irishman started the round in the lead and had been right in contention but his challenge faded when he three-putted three holes in a row.
Lowry can be proud all the same. He didn’t let himself down and ultimately was runner-up at the US Open – not too many people can say that.
I would love to have seen Lee Westwood or Sergio Garcia, who both started the day among the leaders, win it this time, but the right man won what turned out to be a great championship.
Johnson’s a fantastic player and his driving is a real asset. The big three of Spieth, McIlroy and Jason Day remain the men to beat but he has achieved something now that will give him so much confidence.