It would be difficult to imagine more stunning setbacks than those professional golfer Dustin Johnson experienced in two major events this summer, but the 26-year-old put the mishaps behind him and on Sunday won the BMW Championship by one stroke. It was his fourth career win, the most of any golfer in his 20s on the PGA tour.
The Myrtle Beach area resident's second victory of the year came at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club in south suburban Lemont, Ill. Associated Press golf writer Doug Ferguson described Johnson's play as "flawless on the back nine [making] up a three-shot deficit against Paul Casey. ... Johnson closed with a 2-under 69 for a one-shot victory." After his victory, the former Coastal Carolina University golfer said: "To finally get it done, especially after all the things I've gone through this summer ... it can't feel any better."
Johnson's first 2010 victory was at Pebble Beach in February, but he was hardly well-known until the U.S. Open in June. Leading by three going into the final round, the wheels fell off on Sunday and he had an 82 and tied for eighth place. However, as John Branch wrote in a New York Times profile, "that pales next to the PGA. At Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, Johnson was in the final pairing and held a one-stroke lead on the 18th hole. He hit his drive to the right, into a trampled mess of grass and sand. Surrounded by fans, he hit a 4-iron that missed the green. He chipped on, missed a tournament-winning 7-footer and thought, like most everyone else, that he would join a three-hole playoff with Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson.
"That is, until an official told him there was a problem. Johnson had grounded his 4-iron in a sand trap, which is against the rules. Only thing was, no one was sure it was a sand trap, it seemed, except the people running the tournament," Branch wrote. Grounding his club meant a two-stroke penalty, taking him out of the playoff.
Those losses in major events he could have won evidently were forgotten as far as Johnson's play in the BMW was concerned. His first-place finish was worth $1,350,000 and 2,500 points on the FedEx Cup list. Ferguson writes, "Johnson has quickly emerged as one of the game's rising stars. He now goes to the Tour Championship at No. 2 in the FedEx Cup standings, with a clear shot at the $10 million bonus."
He sees his disappointments at the U.S. Open and the PGA as "something that happened and cannot change," Branch writes. "Learn. Move on. Do not repeat." The same "grown-up attitude" evidently applies to Johnson's involvement, as a juvenile, in a burglary in which a handgun was stolen and later used in a fatal shooting by an older brother of one of the boys involved in the burglary. Johnson has been pardoned by the state. And likewise to "an arrest for driving under the influence in the spring of 2009," Branch writes.
With too much emphasis on winning, how games are played often is overlooked. So it's refreshing to read, in the John Branch profile, that Johnson "has become golf's most compelling figure, at least beyond Tiger Woods and his breakup drama - not because of what he has won, but how he has lost."