Johnsons victory at Pebble Beach makes statement

By Randall MellFebruary 15, 2010, 8:09 am
2007 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Dustin Johnson wouldn’t be overwhelmed.

That’s always the threat on the 18th tee box on a Sunday afternoon at Pebble Beach. A man’s soul gets stripped bare walking this hole with a tournament on the line. The pressure pounds on a player’s psyche here with the same fury as the surf upon the rugged shoreline that abuts the fairway. There’s no faking it when the hard questions are asked in this demanding finish.

That’s what makes you believe Johnson, 25, has officially arrived as the world’s most promising twentysomething star.

Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson holds the Pebble Beach trophy again. (Getty Images)
Move over Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer and Anthony Kim.

You don’t win back-to-back at Pebble Beach without being a special talent.

Sam Snead (1937-38), Cary Middlecoff (1955-56), Jack Nicklaus (1972-73), Tom Watson (1977-78) and Mark O’Meara (1989-90) are the only other players to achieve what Johnson did Sunday with his successful title defense.

You might have wondered when Johnson made his first PGA Tour title a Fall Finish event as a rookie two years ago. Who did he really beat? You might have wondered when he didn’t have to play the final round and was proclaimed the champ after 54 rain-soaked holes at Pebble Beach last year. Would he have survived the finish? There’s no wondering now, not after the way Johnson kept his composure Sunday with all hell breaking loose around him in a tumultuous finale.

Tied for the lead at the 18th tee, Johnson striped his drive 288 yards through the wind and into the middle of that narrow fairway. After a long, nervy wait to go for the green in two, he steered a 3-iron into the front, right greenside bunker. From there, he got up and down for birdie to give him a victory in each of his first three seasons on the PGA Tour.

In a year that’s been witness to so many lay ups with titles on the line, Johnson won aggressively and fearlessly.

“Obviously I wasn’t playing the way I wanted to play today, but I was still right there,” Johnson said. “Nothing I had done all day mattered until . . . The only thing that mattered was that hole.”

Johnson’s caddie, Bobby Brown, is more impressed by Johnson’s head than he is by Johnson’s considerable skill.

“I know I’m biased, but I tell you what, this kid is special,” said Brown, who has caddied for all three of Johnson’s victories. “I can’t believe it’s taken so long for people to catch onto him the way he hits the ball.”

It isn’t just the way the long-hitting Johnson strikes the ball. It’s the way the kid from South Carolina handles pressure. It’s the way he managed himself when it looked like this was destined to be a tournament somebody would blow at the end.

Johnson made double bogey at the ninth hole, missing a 2-footer for bogey. He lost a one-shot lead to Paul Goydos there.

“Stuff happens,” Johnson said. “You can’t let it bother you.”

Though he managed a par to regain the lead at the 14th, the nightmares he watched unfold there were potentially unnerving.

The 14th is where Bryce Molder melted down. Johnson watched it all in front of him from back in the middle of the fairway. He stood there for what seemed like forever watching Molder hike back and forth across the green making quadruple-bogey 9.

“We tried not to watch,” Brown said.

Moments later, Johnson watched Goydos do the same in his pairing. With three pitches and three putts, Goydos made a 9 there, too.

“Dustin might have won this tournament with his head,” Brown said.

Johnson’s power captivates us, but veterans on Tour have seen there’s more to his game. Cubby Burke, the long-time caddie to Davis Love III, pulled Brown aside at the Open at Grayhawk during Johnson’s rookie year. Burke was on Cameron Beckman’s bag in a pairing with Johnson.

“Dustin is 25 going on 45,” Brown said. “He never gets upset. That’s what Cubby told me. He said, ‘This kid gets it.’ Here’s a caddie who’s been out here for 25 years and has seen it all. It made me feel good about who I’m working for.

“Dustin gets it as far as attitude. When all hell breaks loose, some guys can go the other way and let it get them down. Every time this kid does something I think will get him mad, he just looks at me, and before I can say anthing, he says, ‘I’m all right man, I’m all right.’”

That’s what Johnson told Brown Sunday after he blew a 7-iron into a back bunker at the 17th hole. He would lose his one-shot lead there.

A drunken fan screamed out in Johnson’s back swing on the tee, but Johnson didn’t blame his errant shot on it. He never mentioned it until asked. The shot left him in an awkward down slope. He blasted 25 feet past and missed the putt for par.

With Johnson walking to the 18th tee, you couldn’t help wondering what doubts might be pounding at the door to his brain.

Johnson, though, looked undeterred, never hesitating to unsheath his driver. His rocket down the middle of the fairway with so much on the line might be the shot of his young life. It set up the most important victory of his career, a title that ought to make him among the favorites when the U.S. Open returns to Pebble Beach this summer.

Johnson seems completely comfortable stepping up in class. He sounds like a man who welcomes larger moments and larger victories.

“As long as I keep playing the way I’m playing, I don’t think there’s anything I can’t do,” he said. “It’s all up to me.”

Count Brown among the believers.

“Don’t let that laid back attitude fool you,” Brown said. “Dustin burns with fire inside. He’s got some fire in his belly. There’s going to be a changing of the guard here sooner or later, isn’t there? Why not nominate him. He’s got all the tools. I would think he’s only going to get better.”


Getty Images

Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome

By Grill Room TeamDecember 18, 2017, 3:22 pm

Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)

The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...

2017 Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.

Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.

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

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.