The Masters Tournament is now on equal standing with golf’s other three major championships for Dustin Johnson: an earnest run at a title, but in the end a disappointing conclusion.
It had been the one major in which Johnson hadn’t truly been in contention in a final round.
But he made a mid-round charge that pulled him within a couple shots of the lead Sunday before a double bogey on the 17th hole dashed his hopes of a green jacket at Augusta National Golf Club.
“The atmosphere was great. I had a lot of fun,” Johnson said. “I feel like I'm getting better each year, so I'm looking forward to next year.”
Johnson has recorded his three best finishes in seven Masters appearances in the past four years, tying for 13th in 2013, sixth last year and fourth on Sunday with a final-round 71 for a 1-under 287 total that was four shots behind winner Danny Willett.
Johnson began the final round three shots out of the lead and tied for fifth at even par and stumbled early with a double bogey on the fifth hole to drop to 2 over. But he made a charge with five birdies between the sixth and 15th holes.
“That's a situation where it can go one of two ways and I came right back and made a nice putt for birdie on 6 and then I made a good four on 7 and then birdied 8 and birdied 9,” Johnson said. “So, I felt like I came back really good after that and played really solid all day, just had some great looks and just didn't make them.”
Though Johnson made five birdies, he numerous other putts that could have contributed to a different outcome.
He missed eagle putts of 12, 13 and 20 feet, as well as birdie putts of 8 feet on the second hole, 4 feet on the third, 12 feet on the 10th and 15 feet on the 16th hole.
“I had a lot of great looks,” Johnson said. “I felt like I hit some pretty good putts that maybe the speed I hit a couple just a fraction too hard, but out here just a fraction off you miss,” Johnson said. “So I hit a lot of good putts I thought I made that didn't go in. I felt like I played tee to green just as good as anyone and I just didn't hole enough putts.”
Johnson hit 10 of 14 fairway and 12 greens in regulation but needed 30 putts Sunday, which tied him for 37th in the field. He was seventh in the field on the week with 115 putts.
“I think my game's exactly where it needs to be,” Johnson said. “I'm doing all the right things, I hit it in all the right spots and I hit some great shots.”
After missing a pair of birdie putts inside 10 feet through four holes, Johnson fell six shots off the lead with his double on the fifth. He left his approach short on the fringe of the par-4 fifth hole, 50 feet from the pin with a false front to traverse. He left his putt short and it rolled back to him, then putted 15 feet past the hole and missed the bogey putt.
He bounced back with a 15-foot birdie putt from the back fringe on the par-3 sixth and hit a beautiful bunker shot for a tap-in par on the seventh. He hit the flag with a long iron on the par-5 eighth that left a 12-foot uphill eagle putt but had to settle for a birdie that got him back to even par for the round and tournament, and rolled in a 7-foot birdie putt on the ninth to get under par.
Johnson made a great par save on the 11th hole after hitting his tee shot into right trees and needing 10 minutes to clear spectators more than 100 yards down the right side to open up a sight line. His second shot stopped a few yards from water short and left of the green and he pitched up to 6 feet.
Johnson had eagle putts inside 25 feet on both the 13th and 15th holes and had to settle for birdies. He hit a 180-yard approach to 13 feet on the 13th and hit a brazen shot on the 15th. He appeared blocked out from a direct shot at the green by trees on the left side of the fairway, but Johnson hit a 6-iron from 220 yards to within 20 feet of the hole and two-putted for a birdie that got him to 3 under and within two shots of Willett’s lead.
“I hit through a hole about as big around as a baseball and knocked it on the green. It might be one of the better shots I've ever hit,” Johnson said. “I had 20 feet straight up the hill for eagle and just misread it a little bit.”
Johnson missed a 15-foot birdie putt on the 16th and his fate was sealed at the 17th when he came up short of the green in a bunker from 160 yards and eventually three-putted from 50 feet for a double bogey.
Langasque shows promise
Amateur Romain Langasque of France, a 20-year-old who qualified for the Masters by winning the 2015 British Amateur, gave us a glimpse of his ability Sunday by firing a 4-under 68 in the final round of the Masters.
Langasque, one of two of the tournament’s six amateurs to make the cut along with Bryson DeChambeau – who was the low amateur at 5-over 293 – was 1 over for his round and 15 over for the tournament at the turn Sunday before shooting a 5-under 31 on the back nine.
“Four birdie on the last five holes to finish, so just amazing finish for me and pretty good,” Langasque said.
His back-nine birdies came on holes 10, 14, 15, 16 and 18. He hit a 185-yard approach to 6 feet on 10, hit a 160-yard approach to 4 feet on 14, hit a 250-yard approach to 12 feet on the par-5 15th and two-putted, and chipped in from behind the green on the 16th with a chip. The chip was flopped up the hill and trickled down and into the hole, similar to Tiger Woods’ famous chip-in when he won in 2005.
“When we left the tee with my caddie I told him, ‘This is the chip that Tiger made and I can make it.’ And I just hit a good chip and it went in,” Langasque said.
Langasque closed his round with an 18-foot birdie putt on 18.
He turned pro following the final round, so Sunday’s finish should be a good springboard for him as he plays on the European Challenge Tour for the remainder of this year.
“To finish this tournament and on Sunday with 4 under is just perfect for the confidence and for everything,” said Langasque, who is mentored by fellow Frenchman and Masters participant Victor Dubuisson, who shares the same coach in Benoit Ducoulombier.
He delayed turning pro specifically to play the Masters. “There’s no tournament like this one and I really want to came back here really quick,” he said.
Smylie makes name
Entering the final round a shot out of the lead and in the final group with Jordan Spieth, PGA Tour rookie Smylie Kaufman didn’t play as well as he had hoped Sunday with an 81 to tie for 29th. But he made his unique name more of household name.
Who is Carter Smylie Kaufman? First, the origin of his first name. He goes by his middle name, which was the name of his grandmother's cousin, Smylie Gebhart, a 1971 All-America defensive end at Georgia Tech who was later paralyzed in an accident and died in 2001.
At 24, he still lives at his parents’ house in Birmingham, Ala., and is also staying with his parents this week in an Augusta home rented by the family.
Golf goes back a long way in his family. Grandfather Alan Kaufman retired two years ago from being the golf coach at Alabama-Birmingham, where his star player was U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell.
He’s obviously got game, shooting a 10-under 61 to win in his rookie year on the PGA Tour in Las Vegas late last year.
Kaufman says he turned down an invitation to play Augusta National about a decade ago because he had already missed too much school because of golf.
A helping hand
The top players in the world often have regular caddies they can trust. For Tom Watson it was Bruce Edwards. For Tiger Woods it was Steve Williams, and for Phil Mickelson it has been Jim “Bones” Mackay.
For World No. 3 and four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, veteran caddie J.P. Fitzgerald has been his right-hand man. Fitzgerald previously caddied for European stalwarts Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke, and has been with McIlroy since the middle of 2008.
“It’s just a reassurance,” said McIlroy, who shot a 71 Sunday to tie for 10th at 1-over 289. “He's been out here a long time, as well, so he knows the game. It's nice to have someone on the bag that has been on my bag for the last seven or eight years, continuity and having the same thing and hearing the same voice every time, it really helps. As much as I probably give him a little too much crap at times on the course, he's a help to me.”
The purse for the 2016 Masters was $10 million, with $1.8 million going to the winner and $1.08 million going to the runner-up.
Finishing 50th was worth $25,200, and each pro who participated – whether they made the cut or not – received at least a few thousand dollars.
ESPN ratings up
ESPN reported that its live telecast of Round 2 from 3-7:30 p.m. on Friday earned a 2.2 U.S. household rating, averaging 3.06 million viewers, according to fast national data from Nielsen Media.
The rating and viewership rose for the second consecutive year for the Friday telecast, up from a 2.1 rating and an average of 2.952 million viewers in 2015 and a 1.8 rating and an average of 2.465 million viewers in 2014.
Viewers were able to watch more than half of the round played by leader Jordan Spieth. Friday’s telecast peaked with a 2.6 rating and 3.727 million viewers from 5:30-6 p.m, which included Tom Watson’s walk to the 18th green in his final Masters.
Greenville-Spartanburg was the nation’s highest-rated metered market with a 3.9 rating for Friday’s telecast, followed by Louisville, Ky.
Digitally, ESPN reports Round 2 had an average minute audience of 49,000 and 13.2 total minutes viewed, both up 76 percent from 2015.