Dustin Johnson was making the short walk from 10th green to 11th tee at Whistling Straits when the galleries on either side of the narrow path started roaring, âMVP! MVP! MVP! “
Eyes straight ahead, unmoved as always, Johnson deserved the vocals but barely recognized them. Somewhere deep down, however, he had to smile. That’s what people mean when they say revenge is best served cold.
On the same course where 11 years earlier Johnson had lost a chance in his first major league, he won all five games he played and led a young American Ryder Cup team to their most lopsided victory ever over Europe. The fact that the oldest player on the squad also turned out to be the best made him a little softer.
Yet even after sidelining his Sunday singles opponent Paul Casey, 1 ahead, Johnson had a characteristic low-key celebration. A tip of the hat, a few slaps on the back of the teammates and a long kiss from partner Paulina Gretzky.
âI felt like the game was improving,â said Johnson, 37. He could have said that it was a long and sometimes daunting task for someone who retained his second place in the world despite not playing championship-caliber golf since winning the championship. Masters 2020. Instead, Johnson continued to try to hijack the credit.
He congratulated US captain Steve Stricker, then Collin Morikawa and Xander Sc chaudle, his playing partners in their twenties in the four-ball and four-ball matches. Half a if Johnson was expected to add the course superintendent, greenskeepers, cleaning crews and wait staff to the USA team room before he was done. He didn’t mention his own role in all of those wins until he ran out of backers to thank.
âI didn’t expect 5-0-0 for sure,â he said, âbut I didn’t really expect to play five games.â
Casey wasn’t entirely convinced.
“Classic Dustin” is how the Englishman described their game. âHe played great golf. Disappointed, I did not put this putt (17th) to tie this game, but I know he wanted 5-0 for the week.
The last American Ryder Cup player to turn the round was Larry Nelson in 1979. Golfers rarely dwell on the past; even the best have hit enough bad blows to break even the strongest heart. For the same reason, perhaps, Johnson never mentioned the 2010 PGA Championship at that same course, where he contested on the 18th hole on the final day and hit his tee shot in a bunker well to the right of the 18th fairway.
The patch of sand was on the wrong side of the gallery rope, pockmarked with footprints where fans had been walking all week. The grassy edge that usually marks the outline of a bunker was so trampled on that Johnson assumed it was a trail. A backpack sat in it even as he played the shot.
Johnson was fined two strokes instead of making the playoffs. As news of the decision reached fans who were ringing green, they began chanting “Let him play!” “And” Nonsense! “
Johnson took his meds admirably that afternoon.
âI just thought it was on a piece of land that the crowd had trampled on. I never thought it was a sand trap. I watched it a lot. I never thought it was a bunker, âhe said, then paused.
“I guess,” he said, “I should have looked at the rule sheet a little further.”
Stricker knew Johnson’s history at Whistling Straits and also knew that whatever lessons he learned from the 2010 championship would make him a stronger player this time around. His teammates knew it too, and after following his lead for three days, they couldn’t help but have fun with the idea that the class owed him something.
âI think DJ is our emotional leader. The poor guy went over there and tried to get six points, “Justin Thomas said before smiling broadly,” and all he could get was five. “