U.S. Open notebook: Johnson ties for fourth without his best

ablondin@thesunnews.comJune 15, 2014 

US Open Golf

Dustin Johnson watches his tee shot on the eighth hole during the final round of the U.S. Open in Pinehurst, N.C.

BY CHUCK BURTON — The Associated Press

— With four holes to play Sunday, Dustin Johnson was tied for second in the 114th U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 and had a chance to be the only player in the tournament to play all four rounds at par or better.

He was even par for his round and 2 under for the tournament. The Coastal Carolina alumnus was unable to earn the distinction with bogeys on three of his final four holes, but he tied for fourth at 1-over 281 despite the tough finish and a final-round 73.

“For not playing what I think is very good at all – I definitely didn’t have my ‘A’ game [for the week] – I still had a very good finish and I’m very pleased with that,” Johnson said.

The finish is Johnson’s seventh top 10 and third top-five in majors, along with a tie for second in the 2011 British Open and tie for fifth in the 2010 PGA Championship.

Johnson began the final round six shots behind leader and eventual winner Martin Kaymer, and had two early opportunities to make a move but was unable to capitalize on either of them.

On the 313-yard par-4 third hole his drive came to rest near bleachers and a TV tower to the left of the green. He took a free drop and chipped to 5 feet but missed the birdie putt.

On the 572-yard par-5 fifth, Johnson’s 4-iron second shot rolled 15 feet behind the green. Johnson waited a few minutes to hit the chip as he waited for the lead group of Rickie Fowler and Kaymer, and the horde of media and officials following, to clear the area after teeing off on the adjacent fourth tee.

He hit the chip shot heavy and it rolled back off the green, and he two-putted from the fringe for a par.

“I didn’t take advantage of 3 and 5,” Johnson said. “Obviously it gives you some momentum [to make birdie] and I needed to get some momentum, I just never got anything going.”

“It was gettable out there today if you played really good, but I just didn’t play very well. I finally got it in the fairway, then my irons weren’t going where I was looking.”

Johnson made the turn with a 1-over 36 with a bogey on the par-4 eighth after his approach from 165 yards in the fairway bounced off the right side of the green, leaving him short-sided and well below the hole, and he missed a 10-foot par putt.

He birdied the par-5 10th by getting up and down from a bunker, and on the par-4 14th he hit his approach through a narrow opening between pine trees from pine straw to 10 feet but left the putt a foot short. He then bogeyed holes 15, 16 and 17. “At that point I was just trying to get into the house,” Johnson said.

Johnson is playing this week in the Travelers Championship in Connecticut, so he hopes to spend his 30th birthday on the golf course Sunday.

Heart of a champion

Erik Compton didn’t get the storybook ending of a win, but his story is still worthy of a book and movie, and hopefully he has a sequel in the works.

Compton, 34, the recipient of two heart transplants when he was 12 and again in 2008, tied Rickie Fowler for second, eight shots behind Kaymer at 1-under 279 following a final-round 72 Sunday. The runner-up is the best finish of his PGA Tour career in just his second major.

“I’ve never gotten this far along in my story. It’s still sinking in still. It’s just a real special moment,” Compton said. “I've been on my back twice and I never thought I would ever leave the house. Now I just finished second at the U.S. Open. I don't think anybody would have ever thought I would do that, not even myself. So you can't ever write yourself off, you just can't give up.”

Compton was the only player to pull within four strokes of the champion in the final round following birdies on holes 5, 8 and 10, but he bogeyed holes 11, 12 and 15, and completed a difficult up-and-down on the 18th to tie for second. The galleries were pulling for him from start to finish Sunday.

“On every hole, from the tee box to the putting green, people were cheering for me and I definitely felt the love and the support from the crowd,” Compton said. “It seemed like people really got around my story.”

A pivotal point

Holing the winning putt in the Ryder Cup two years ago at Medinah Country Club didn’t necessarily lift Kaymer to greatness – he went winless in 2013 on the PGA and European tours for the second consecutive year – but more importantly, it kept him from falling into despair.

Kaymer’s world ranking was spiraling en route to bottoming out at No. 63 after he rose to No. 1 early in 2011, and he was in a funk while working through swing changes.

He was a reluctant member of the European team, qualifying on points based largely on his 2010 PGA Championship win and pair of European Tour wins in 2011.

“Going to the Ryder Cup, I didn't play good golf at all,” Kaymer said. “I wouldn't have put myself on the team. I just qualified, that's why I was on the team, but I would have never deserved a wild card. So I really wanted to prove to myself that I can do something for the team, because I played with Justin Rose on Friday and I really couldn't help him much. Obviously, on his record it's a loss as well. So you don't really want to do that, you don't want to feel like that.”

Kaymer holed a 7-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to defeat Steve Stricker 1 up in the penultimate match, clinch the cup and cap a four-point European comeback in the 12 singles matches.

“For me it was very, very important to accomplish something at Medinah and I just got in a very lucky position that I could make something really, really big happen for my career, for Europe, for my country, and I think a lot of people don't realize that it can change a career,” Kaymer said. “If you think about it in the negative way and think about if I would have missed the putt, it could break an athlete. So I'm very happy I didn't think about it while I was standing over that putt.

“… Otherwise, you know, maybe just after the Ryder Cup, it would have been too much.”

Kaymer won the exclusive 12-player Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa following the Ryder Cup.

Additional concerns

While attempting to complete the career Grand Slam and dealing with putting woes, Phil Mickelson wasn’t able to entirely avoid reminders and questions regarding a probe by the FBI and Securities Exchange Commission into possible insider trading involving billionaire investor Carl Icahn and professional gambler Billy Walters.

Mickelson has been questioned at least twice by authorities, and a New York Times story Thursday said Mickelson did not trade in the shares of Clorox just as Icahn was seeking an unsolicited takeover bid for the company in 2011, and the FBI has told Mickelson that he will not face any criminal charges for insider trading.

Mickelson still faces an investigation over separate trades made in Dean Foods in 2012 just before the company’s stock took off, reportedly making him nearly $1 million.

He was queried on that investment by a Wall Street Journal reporter during a press gathering following his first round.

“I'll continue to say I haven't done anything wrong,” said Mickelson, who shot a 72 Sunday and tied for 28th at 7-over 287. “I'm willing to help out, love to help out any way on the investigation. So like I said before, with an investigation going on, I'm not going to comment any further on it.

“… I do have a lot to say and I will say it at the right time. I've got a lot to say, I just can't say it right now.”

Perry paired for a pair

Kenny Perry knows all about aces on the ninth hole at Pinehurst No. 2 during the U.S. Open.

He hasn’t made one on the hole, but he has twice been in the pairing when others have. He was on the tee with Peter Jacobsen when he made an ace on the hole in the third round in 2005, and he was with Zach Johnson on Sunday when he recorded the 44th ace in U.S. Open history and second at Pinehurst.

Johnson holed a 7-iron from 172 yards, as the ball landed to the left of the hole and just beyond it, caught a slope and rolled in.

Perry actually contributed to the ace, as he played first on the hole and Johnson said he clubbed off of him. “If I would have had the honor there, I would have hit an 8-iron and I would have been short or off the green or in the trap,” said Johnson, whose ace was his third but first in competition. “So I just held a 7-iron, tried to hit a high, high 7-iron.”

Special Father’s Day

Fran Quinn had quite a Father’s Day on Sunday, completing his first U.S. Open since 1996 at the age of 49 with his 15-year-old son, Owen, on the bag.

The Massachusetts native and resident opened with a 68 and shot a final-round 73 to tie for 26th and earn more than $22,000 at 14-over 294, and walked up the 18th fairway Sunday with his arm around his son, enjoying the moment.

“It definitely exceeded all expectations,” Quinn said, “I mean just from the standpoint of having my son on the bag, leading the U.S. Open on Day 1 and being around the lead all day. It was something that Owen and I will always remember and talk about for a long time, until he's leading the U.S. Open.”

Matthew joins Bobby

Reigning U.S. Amateur champion Matthew Fitzpatrick, a 19-year-old Englishman, closed out his amateur career Sunday with a 1-under 69 to tie for 48th at 11-over 291.

He will turn pro this week and play in this weekend’s Irish Open on the European Tour.

Fitzpatrick was the only amateur to make the cut so he finished as low amateur. He tied for 44th in the 2013 British Open, making him the first reigning low amateur of both the British Open and U.S. Opens since Bobby Jones in 1930.

“It's been a great week,” Fitzpatrick said. “My aim was to win the low amateur, and to achieve it is pretty pleasing. I think playing with some of the biggest names I played with Phil [Mickelson] and Justin [Rose], a practice round with Rory [McIlroy], playing with Louis [Oosthuizen] on the last day, and, yeah, it's been great and I really enjoyed my week.”

Women on tap

Tickets for this week’s U.S. Women’s Open are available. Prices start at $30 for daily tickets and range up to $175 for weekly Trophy Club packages and can be purchased by visiting Will Call locations at Pinehurst No. 2. Visit uswomensopen.com for more tournament information.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284 or on Twitter @alanblondin, or read his blog Green Reading at myrtlebeachonline.com

Myrtle Beach Sun News is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service