DJ never wants to watch a major from his couch again

By Doug FergusonApril 11, 2017, 8:00 pm

Dustin Johnson was back on the stationary bike, moving forward without really going anywhere.

The good news for golf's No. 1 player is that an MRI showed only a deep bruise on the left side of his lower back. If doctors had taken images a little higher up the torso, they also might have seen a slight tear in his heart.

"One thing I never want to have to do again," Johnson said Tuesday, "is watch a major from my couch."

At least he watched. And it wasn't all bad.

He was thrilled to see Sergio Garcia overcome a two-shot deficit in the Masters and two decades of frustrations in the majors. Johnson could relate to that, having been in position to win a major four times before winning the U.S. Open last summer at Oakmont.

Good luck finding someone who can relate to Johnson's experience at the 81st Masters.

Sure, there have been times when a No. 1 player had to withdraw from a major. But not when the player was coming off three straight victories against the strongest fields of the year. Not when that player was five minutes and 20 yards from the first tee.

And never has an injury to a No. 1 player been so bizarre on so many levels.

He had finished his final nine holes of practice Wednesday before the storms rolled in. Johnson had gone to the gym and had just returned to his rented house at Augusta when it started raining and he wanted to move his car.

Wearing only socks, he slipped down the staircase, crashing onto his back and left elbow.

"It was terrible," Johnson said. "And the weirdest part is, I never walk around in socks. For some reason if I walk around barefooted, my left foot starts to hurt. That's why I always have shoes on. But I just got back from the gym and wanted to run down and move the car over. And I slipped."

Johnson said it was the worst pain he has ever felt.

"I thought I broke my back in half," he said. "I really thought my back was broken."

He still thought about playing when he left the practice range Thursday, only to realize on the putting green that he couldn't. Johnson said he was hitting his 4-iron about 200 yards in the air (it usually flies 235 yards) and he had no idea which direction the ball was going until he hit it. Over the next 15 minutes, on the cart ride to the putting green and a few more full swings between putts, reality won out.

"The more I thought about it, there was no chance," he said. "It just took a while to convince myself."

There was a small measure of relief that tests revealed only a bruise. When he flew home to Florida, he said, his lower back hurt for two days. Now it's in a confined area near the bruise. He has returned to a routine, which includes work in the gym.

"I'm not really doing much," Johnson said. "Today I started moving a little bit. Yesterday I did a little bit of chest and arms. Moving up and down, I'm fine. If I'm twisting, it's a little sore. And I'm making some swings, but I'm not hitting any balls."

As bad as the timing was, it could have been worse.

Johnson had scheduled the next three weeks off, so there will be no temptation to play before he is fully recovered. His next tournament is the Wells Fargo Championship that starts May 4, the first of three in a row.

And while it hurt to watch the Masters on TV, it felt good to see Garcia win.

"Sergio and I are friends," he said. "I was rooting for him. It was cool to see him get that first one. I know a little bit of what he's been through. He'd been close quite a few times, just like I had been close. It took him a lot longer."

People talk about how it takes time for that first major to sink in. Johnson might never grasp his unfortunate turn of events, even for someone who has dealt with his share of setbacks.

In a 2015 interview, when asked his biggest disappointment, Johnson said, "I've had a lot of (stuff) happen to be me, but I came out better on the other side."

His short memory might be one of his great assets.

For all blunders on the golf course that he quickly forgets about, this one shouldn't be much different. He is still playing the best golf of his life. He still has a chance at his next tournament for a fourth straight PGA Tour victory, which would be the longest streak since Tiger Woods, who won five straight over six months.

"One reason I'm good at golf is because I try not to let it bother me," Johnson said. "It sucks. It sucks right now. But I woke up this morning, and it was a good day."

And he still has a large collection of trophies at home.

Johnson laughed.

"That doesn't hurt," he said.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.