Dustin Johnson trying to turn U.S. Open into a positive at St. Andrews
By Ron Borges
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – In life, one's cup is always somewhat full or somewhat empty, depending on your point of view, so what happens to you is never quite as important as how you react to it. The effect of events is yours to decide.
Yet many look at those who see consistently brimming cups as purveyors of self-denial, willfully blind to life's sad realities. Fortunately for Dustin Johnson's peace of mind – not to mention his golf game – he sips from the cup of life, and perhaps because of it, he may yet sip from the Claret Jug Sunday evening at the conclusion of the 144th Open Championship.
Yesterday was the first time Johnson faced the media since making the least-welcomed par in his personal golf history on the 18th hole at the U.S. Open last month when a 12-foot putt for eagle would have given him his first major championship and a 3-footer for birdie would have forced a playoff with eventual champion Jordan Spieth.
While the eagle putt was a difficult one, the birdie to force the playoff was from a distance Johnson converts over 99.1 percent of the time. Probabilities, however, are meaningless if you miss and he did, his ball skipping by the hole at the last moment.
Johnson then skipped the customary post-tournament awards ceremony for the winner and runner-up and hadn't been seen or heard from since, so many wondered if blundering to lose a major on the final day for the fourth time had left him sleepless or morose.
While Shakespeare's Henry IV once said, "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown," what of the head that fails to put on the crown? How long might such a memory poison the mind?
"Not very long," Johnson said of the post-putt fallout from that loss. "I played very well that week. I was happy with the way I played and the way I handled myself coming down the last few holes.
"I thought I hit the shots I was supposed to hit. I did everything I was supposed to do. It wasn't too difficult to get over it. Obviously, I was a little disappointed I didn't get the job done, but I was definitely happy with the way I played."
Happy despite missing a 3-foot putt potentially worth millions? Is this guy redefining lowering the bar?
Again, that depends on your point of view. Many saw Johnson as a choker but that is not necessarily true. The absence of victory does not always necessitate the need for the Heimlich Maneuver. Sometimes, the ball just hops when it should not. Does that negate all you did to get into position to win?
Do two missed putts mean you didn't birdie 17 to close the gap? Do they erase the memory of a perfectly placed drive on 18 or an equally adroit second shot leaving you 12 feet from winning the U.S. Open?
As with much of life, how you feel is determined by how you see things. When Johnson looks back, he sees no reason to sing the blues. He espies a reason to believe.
"I hit two great shots (on 18) and unfortunately my ball – I don't know how it stayed where it did, above the hole up there (instead of trickling closer to the smallest opening in sports), but unfortunately it stayed there and it was just a tough putt," Johnson said of the 12-footer.
"I was trying to make it but if it went in, I wanted it to barely go in and it still went 4 (actually 3) feet by. Hit a good putt on the way back. It just bounced and missed left."
End of story for Johnson, who is ironically paired with Spieth in the first two rounds this week. No sleepless nights. No haunting memories.
In fact, when asked about "not putting with a lot of confidence" on the back nine that day, Johnson fired back not like a tortured soul, but rather a defiant one.
"I don't know if you watched the telecast, but I think pretty much everyone missed a lot of putts (because of the poor condition of the greens at Chambers Bay)," Johnson said. "It was just part of it. The greens weren't rolling that great. I felt like I was hitting good putts, just it's tough to judge bounces."
In short, losing was more buzzard's luck than blown opportunity. He missed, and so he lost, but that wayward putter isn't hanging around his neck like an albatross.
"Obviously right after, I was done," he said. "I was a little bit frustrated, a little disappointed. But obviously it was still a good week. Then we all went just a short flight over to Coeur d'Alene (Idaho) and spent the night there, hung out with friends and family. It was nice."
What might not be is that in Johnson's last six majors he's finished top eight four times but never closed the show. That has left some wondering if he's doomed to be the next Greg Norman, who came up short so many times in major championships.
Ask Johnson about that and he'll say the true meaning of it has been lost on you. He'll tell you those defeats mean that there's a Tiger in his tank.
"I think it's very good, very positive," Johnson said. "It gives me confidence to know I have what it takes to win. I think I showed that at the U.S. Open. Coming down the back nine, I was hitting the shots I wanted to hit (despite three bogeys). Unfortunately, the ball wasn't bouncing in the hole.
"I've got what it takes, so I'm excited to get this week started. I try to look at them all as learning opportunities. Each one helps me get closer to actually getting a major."
Life, you see, is how you take it. Dustin Johnson's take is this: Jordan Spieth better watch out.
"Well, I'm playing in the next two, so we'll have to see," Johnson said when asked to assess Spieth's chance of completing the Grand Slam by winning all four majors this year.
As he spoke, a broad grin spread across Johnson's face as wide as the Firth of Forth. Clearly, nothing that happened at Chambers Bay had convinced him his cup – or his game – had a hole in it.
This article was written by Ron Borges from Boston Herald and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.