No wicked memories banging about his head in a bid to ruin another ending.
No hint that some unrepaired crack in his armor was going to split wide open with the pressure building yet again.
“He was singing some Usher song the last two holes,” said his caddie, Bobby Brown. “I’ve never worked for a cooler customer.”
Johnson said he was singing lyrics from Usher’s song 'OMG.'
'OMG' is a love song, and maybe that was fitting, because Johnson’s been feeding off the love from the Midwestern crowds in his first return to this part of the country since he lost the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in heart-wrenching fashion last month.
“It seems like 99 out of 100 people are cheering for him,” Brown said.
Fans have been rooting hard for Johnson to overcome the controversial blow that led to his loss at Whistling Straits, the penalty for grounding a club in a bunker that his caddie still insists wasn’t really a bunker at the final hole of the PGA Championship.
“It wasn’t a bunker!” has become the rallying cry Johnson keeps hearing out here.
“Hear it about every hole,” Johnson said.
Brown can smile hearing it now, but he got as much heat as Johnson for failing to recognize his player was standing in a bunker in that ending to the PGA Championship, albeit a bunker that was crowded with golf patrons.
“I will be the first one to tell you I think we were in a wash-out area left of that bunker at Whistling Straits,” Brown said as he packed up his player’s bag after Sunday’s victory, the fourth of Johnson’s young career and his second this season. “That’s all I can say.”
Brown will tell you Johnson carries no bitterness about that ruling, nor does he protect tender scars from his U.S. Open loss in June. Johnson’s blowing the final-round lead at Pebble Beach had to be nearly as painful as the PGA Championship loss. He went from three shots up to three shots down in dizzying speed over the first four holes that head-spinning Sunday three months ago.
Two crushing major championship losses in one summer are enough to crush the spirit of the strongest player. Golf’s seen players disappear after less.
“He’s gone through a lot,” said Paul Casey, who finished a shot back of Johnson and knows something about trying to rebound from heartache. Casey played himself into contention this weekend in the wake of his disappointment over being passed up as a captain’s pick for the European Ryder Cup team.
It’s a testament to Johnson’s unbreakable spirit that he’s come back to win a big event so quickly. And make no mistake, Sunday’s BMW Championship was large. Johnson leaped to second on the FedEx Cup points list going to the Tour Championship in two weeks. He trails only Matt Kuchar in his bid to win the FedEx Cup and the $10 million jackpot that goes with it. He’s also now in position to win PGA Tour Player of the Year honors.
“I think this is the biggest win for sure,” Johnson said.
The way Johnson closed at Cog Hill made the victory all the more satisfying.
He did it fearlessly, attacking with his driver over the final two holes when the pressure was the greatest. That’s the club that failed him at the finish at Whistling Straits. He wouldn’t have been in that controversial spot in a “bunker” if he hadn’t hit his driver so wildly to the right.
Tied for the lead with Casey at the 17th hole Sunday at Cog Hill, Johnson cut the corner of the dogleg there with a 308-yard cut that he held against the wind. His controlled rocket split the fairway. With a 54-degree wedge in hand, Johnson delicately coaxed a shot to 2 feet to set up what would prove to be the winning birdie.
At the 18th, Johnson didn’t hesitate plucking driver from his bag yet again. He launched this drive 315 yards, holding a cut into a crosswind yet again. He hit the fairway there, too.
“He nutted driver,” Brown said.
That shot's a testament to his nerve because he's just learning to trust the fade under the tutelage of his new coach, Butch Harmon. The shot set up a smart approach to the safe side of the 18th green and a solid two-putt for the win.
“To finally get it done, especially after all the things I’ve gone through this summer, to finally get it done on Sunday, it can’t feel any better,” Johnson said.