UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Here we go again.
Exactly five years ago Saturday, Dustin Johnson took a 54-hole lead into the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He shot 82.
On Sunday at Chambers Bay, Johnson has a chance for redemption. He is tied for the lead at 4 under par with Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Branden Grace.
Since that fateful day at Pebble Beach, Johnson has failed to win any major. Not only did he meltdown at that U.S. Open, he lost a chance to win the PGA Championship later that year at Whistling Straits because of the infamous bunker incident.
A year later at the Open Championship at Royal St. Georges, Johnson was within two shots of the lead with five holes remaining. Johnson tried to reach the par-5 in two shots with a 2 iron but blew it way right and out of bounds. He made double bogey and Darren Clarke cruised to victory.
It’s clear that DJ and majors haven’t always gone nicely together. He’s played in 24 total majors in his career and has eight top-10 finishes, but the hiccups are the ones everybody remembers most.
“I’ve been in the situation a few times so I know how to handle myself,” Johnson said. “I know what it takes to get it done.”
In regular PGA Tour events, yes. He’s won nine times. In majors, not so much.
Perhaps this year is the year he finally delivers in the stretch. Perhaps this is the time he can excuse himself out of the conversation for best player who hasn’t won a major.
After taking a six-month leave of absence last year, it seems that Johnson has returned more focused than ever before. In only his fifth event of the year he won the WGC-Cadillac Championship in impressive fashion and has collected six top-10 finishes.
Although he withdrew from last week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic, it was clear that Chambers Bay is a bomber’s paradise and suits Johnson’s style.
In a third-round 70, Johnson hit all 14 fairways. He’s made 15 birdies in three days, which ties for the most. He’s struggled on the greens a little and has missed several key putts from inside 8-feet, but he continues to give himself more looks at birdie than anyone else in the field.
“I’m right where I want to be,” he said. “I’m in position. “If I play well we’ll see what happens.”