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.