So close to major glory, DJ only finds more heartbreak

By Will GrayJune 22, 2015, 4:42 am

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – As Jordan Spieth sat ready to hoist the U.S. Open trophy on the 18th green at Chambers Bay, and Louis Oosthuizen eagerly received his second-place medal, fellow runner-up Dustin Johnson was conspicuously absent.

Which is a shame, since he might have gotten some extra hardware for losing the tournament twice on the same afternoon.

Already one of the most decorated players on the PGA Tour, Johnson took an opportunity to erase years of heartbreak and instead turned it into one of the biggest 72nd-hole gut punches in major championship history.

Hey, Doug Sanders? Scott Hoch? It’s DJ on Line 1. Time to increase the membership list of golf’s most inconsolable fraternity.

Johnson knows all about losing majors in agonizing fashion, but this one was supposed to be different. Here he stood, on the 72nd hole with the tournament hanging on his clubface, poised and confident and ready to grab his first major trophy with both hands. The pain of years past, the near-misses that kept him from earning a spot among the game’s upper echelon, were all about to be washed away.

After two mighty lashes on the home hole, the target was within range. Just like at Whistling Straits, except this time there was nary a bunker to get in his way.

But minutes later, the scene still reverted back to 2010, as a stunned Johnson took off his cap, brushed aside his hair and wondered what in the world had just happened.

Another opportunity missed. Another chance wasted.

Full-field scores: 115th U.S. Open

For much of the day, the stage appeared to be his. After relying on his drives all week, equal parts mammoth and accurate, Johnson coolly broke from a quartet of co-leaders, making the turn in 33 and building a two-shot lead.

Spieth had stalled, Jason Day was struggling and the path was clear for him to stride forward and accept the hardware that had eluded him.

Instead, his putter betrayed him – slowly at first, and then all at once when it mattered the most.

Johnson lost the U.S. Open for the first time on a four-hole stretch of Chambers Bay’s inward half, missing four straight putts from less than 7 feet. Three of those miscues led to bogeys, and an hour after holding the top spot Johnson was suddenly trailing by two.

“I didn’t make any putts today, I really didn’t,” Johnson said. “I had all the chances in the world.”

It was the putter, after all, that kept Johnson from turning this thing into a rout.

For four rounds, he murdered the ball off the tee and flip-wedged his way around a challenging track, only to fail to capitalize on chance after chance. That trend reared its head at the end of his second round, when he squandered a lead with three bogeys across his final five holes, and it popped up again down the stretch.

“If I rolled the putter halfway decent today,” Johnson surmised, “I win this thing by a few shots, it’s not even close.”

Johnson faltered as Spieth took command, and at that point the script appeared to be written in ink – here lies DJ, once again the victim of a slow bleed in the final round of the U.S. Open, just like his Pebble Beach implosion from five years ago.

But then Spieth made an uncharacteristic error, Johnson hit a great shot at the right time on the 71st hole, and the slate was somehow once again wiped clean.

After reaching the par-5 18th green with a 353-yard drive and an easy 5-iron, he was back on the doorstep of redemption. Thirteen feet were all that remained – 4 yards of fescue and poa and dirt to cleanse him from past sins.

“On the last green, just talking to my brother (caddie Austin Johnson), this is exactly why I’m here,” Johnson said. “This is why I play the game of golf. I’ve got a chance to win the U.S. Open on the last hole.”

As the gallery waited for its cue, Johnson’s eagle effort slid by the hole. Not ideal, but not a problem – only 4 feet stood between him and a Monday playoff with Spieth.

But seconds later, the crowd’s anticipated eruption turned into a hair-raising gasp. In the span of two quick misses and a tap-in par, it was all gone.

“Whatever that putt did on the last hole, I don’t know,” he said of his birdie attempt. “I might have pulled it a little bit, but still to me it looked like it bounced left. It’s tough. It’s difficult.”

“I very much feel for Dustin,” Spieth said. “He deserves to be holding the trophy as much as I do, I think, this week. It just came down to him being the last one to finish, and I was able to have one hole to rebound from my mistakes, and he wasn’t able to get that hole afterwards.”

Johnson turns 31 on Monday, a prime age for golfers. He has shown signs of change this year, of maturing from the player whose checkered past continues to haunt him. Now a father and again a winner on Tour after a six-month leave of absence, everything appeared in order this week for his signature win.

Instead, he was left to offer another series of half-hearted platitudes.

“Starting the week, all you want is to have a chance to win on the back nine on Sunday,” he said. “I did that. I put myself in position, I hit the shots I needed to hit. I just didn’t get it in the hole quick enough.”

As his seat at the trophy ceremony sat empty, Johnson was whisked away from the makeshift locker room at Chambers Bay, off to catch a flight with fiancée Paulina Gretzky and their son, Tatum, by his side.

“I did everything I could,” he said. “I gave myself looks, just wasn’t my time.”

With the creation of this latest layer of scar tissue, somehow more cruel and shocking than all of the others, it seems reasonable to wonder if his time will ever come.

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Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88

By Associated PressJune 20, 2018, 1:35 am

MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.

Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.

Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.

The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.

On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.

Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.

He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.

In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.

Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.

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Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M

By Ryan LavnerJune 19, 2018, 11:00 pm

In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.

This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.  

Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.

Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.

The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.  

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Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout

By Will GrayJune 19, 2018, 9:44 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.

Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.

Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.

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“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”

Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.

“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”

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Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break

By Randall MellJune 19, 2018, 9:27 pm

Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.

Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.

Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.

“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”

Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.

“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”

Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.