Johnson has history of dealing with bad breaks
He had a three-shot lead going into the final round of the U.S. Open, only to make triple bogey on the second hole, double bogey with a lost tee shot on the next hole, and hit his tee shot into the ocean on the fourth hole. He shot 81.
Even more painful – or so it would seem – was the PGA Championship, where he thought a bogey on the final hole put him in a playoff. Moments later, Johnson was penalized two shots when he didn’t realize he was in a bunker and grounded his club.
Which was tougher to take?
“Neither,” Johnson replied Tuesday.
Those who have come to know the 26-year-old from South Carolina were not surprised. Johnson doesn’t make golf very complicated, and he doesn’t dwell on that which he cannot change. In a telephone interview last week – two days after “Bunkergate” – he said, “I just don’t get why somebody wouldn’t believe me when I say I’m over it. In every sport, you have to go forward.”
Turns out he does have some experience dealing with bad breaks and bad shots.
Johnson recalled one junior tournament in South Carolina when he had a two-shot lead as he played the par-5 18th. He was playing his third shot from the fairway. His opponent – Kevin Kisner, now on the Nationwide Tour – was under a tree playing his third.
“He skulled it,” Johnson said. “And there’s a big mound in front. It went over the mound. You could hear it hit the flag and went in the hole. And it was just … a crazy situation. Probably never happen again in a million years.”
Johnson hit a pedestrian shot that spun off the green. He chipped up to about 3 feet and missed the par putt to lose by a shot.
How did he handle that one?
“I just laughed,” he said. “I was young.”
NO. 1 SCENARIOS: Tiger Woods is at No. 1 in the world for the 272nd consecutive week. For the eighth time this year, that could change depending on Phil Mickelson.
In fact, Mickelson has never been so close to the top.
Woods has an average rating of 9.40 over the last two years, while Mickelson is at 9.14. Lefty can move to No. 1 this week at The Barclays by winning or finishing alone in second, provided Woods does not win; or if Mickelson finishes alone in third with Woods out of the top four at Ridgewood Country Club.
The lower Mickelson finishes, the worse Woods has to do. Mickelson could finish as low as 10th by himself, as long as Woods finishes out of the top 58.
For Woods to stay at No. 1, the scenario is much more simple. He has to make sure Mickelson does not finish ahead of him.
TIGER STATUS: In his first tournament after getting engaged, Tiger Woods was runner-up to Davis Love III at the 2003 Target World Challenge. In his first tournament as a married man, Woods was runner-up to Retief Goosen in the 2004 Tour Championship.
The Barclays will be his first tournament as a divorced man.
Woods at least needs to make the cut, and probably needs to finish in the middle of the pack, to make it out of the first round of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
PING GOLD: This has been an expensive year for Ping Golf, and the Phoenix-based company has no complaints.
John Solheim, the son of Ping founder Karsten Solheim, began a tradition when he became president in 1995 of awarding a solid gold Ping putter for a player who wins a major.
Louis Oosthuizen won the British Open using a Redwood Anser putter. Martin Kaymer won the PGA Championship with a Karsten Series Answer 2 putter. Both will receive the model made of solid gold.
Ping spokesman Pete Samuel did not say how much it cost to make, only that “we welcome the opportunity.” Shipping costs do not apply because Solheim delivers the gold putters himself.
It’s the first time since 1998 that a Ping putter was used in two major victories. Mark O’Meara was using an Anser2 model when he won the Masters and British Open.
RYDER CUP: Zach Johnson is playing the next two FedEx Cup playoff events with more than $10 million on his mind. The Barclays and the Deutsche Bank Championship are somewhat of an audition for Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin.
Johnson finished 11th in the standings, narrowly missing a spot on the team when he failed to birdie the 18th hole – only one player made birdie in the final round – in the PGA Championship.
He desperately wants to be one of Pavin’s four captain’s picks, although he is not consumed with it.
“If I’m playing and competing, I feel like I have a good chance,” Johnson said. “I want to make that team more than anyone knows. If not, I’ll support the team and watch every shot. Once you’re associated with a Ryder Cup team, you want to be part of every one.”
Johnson went 1-2-1 during his Ryder Cup debut in Ireland four years ago.
ONEASIA WAITS: The OneAsia Tour is in its second year as it attempts to create an Asia-Pacific alternative to the PGA Tour and European Tour. It has 11 tournaments this year, up from five in 2009.
What it still lacks is recognition from the board of the Official World Golf Ranking.
During a meeting last month at St. Andrews, the OWGR board decided against giving OneAsia Tour event minimum ranking points for its tournaments. The PGA Tour and European Tour events offer a minimum of 24 points no matter how strong the field, while Japan and Australasian tour events get at least 16 points, and Asia, South Africa and Nationwide events offer a minimum of 14 points.
DIVOTS: Barclays is donating $50,000 to the PGA Tour’s “Birdies for the Brave” program after an exhibition on the former USS Intrepid at Pier 86 in New York, in which Phil Mickelson and others hit balls off the deck to a target in the Hudson River. … PGA champion Martin Kaymer was in New York on Tuesday, even though he’s not eligible for the FedEx Cup playoffs. He presided over the opening bell at Nasdaq during a media tour. … How low was the scoring in Greensboro? John Merrick, Omar Uresti and Charles Warren shot in the 60s all four rounds and tied for 65th.
STAT OF THE WEEK: It has been 19 years since no one on the PGA Tour won more than twice in a season. With 10 tournaments left on the schedule, five players have two victories.
FINAL WORD: “I feel extremely motivated right now. I started this year on the PGA Tour on a high note and I really want to finish it in the same fashion.” – Ernie Els.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump
Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.
Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.
None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.
Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.
An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.
Playing with the pros
Tiger, DJ and Faxon
President at the Presidents Cup
Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham
Cart on the green
Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open
Trump golf properties
Reportedly fake TIME covers
Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story
Pros comment on the president
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates. And click here for the full collection of articles.
No. 1: Dec. 18
Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo
Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.
With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.
Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.
The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.
In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.
Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys
After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.
There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.
It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.
It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.
“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.
In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.
Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”
Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.
“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”
Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.
Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.
If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.
For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.
Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.
Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.
While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.
When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?
Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.
After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.
The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.
That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.
The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.
While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.
Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.
Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.
“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”
The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?