The raw emotion from the Masters champion was as startling as a virtually vacant Augusta National
For someone with a reputation of lacking a pulse and fist pumps, the raw emotion from Masters champion Dustin Johnson was as startling as a virtually vacant Augusta National.
Why was he so choked up he couldn’t speak? Why was the smile so much brighter on Sunday at the Masters than when he won his first major four years ago at Oakmont, as esteemed a U.S. Open course as there is? Part of it was location, sure.
Johnson grew up about an hour away in South Carolina, and the Masters is the one Major every Southern kid dreams about winning.
“Since I played my first Masters, it’s been the tournament I wanted to win the most,” he said, after setting the scoring record at 20-under 268 in his five-shot victory.
As much as location, however, this also was validation.
The question there wasn’t time to ask on Sunday night was whether this victory was enough to atone for all those other majors that went wrong. The suspicion is he would have agreed.
Two elements of validation were in play.
Johnson already had become owner of a label not talked about enough: The best player to have only one major. That’s a list that would include Tom Kite and Lanny Wadkins, Fred Couples and Davis Love III.
Going into the Masters, the 36-year-old Johnson had them all beat because of 23 wins on a PGA Tour that has never been deeper, and the number of chances he had in other Majors. He has the career Grand Slam of silver medals.
The other part of validation was his reputation as a closer.
No one wants to be perceived as the player who can’t hold a lead. Johnson could sense that was the reputation he was developing. He said as much in his news conference.
It was a surprising concession from Johnson, who is not easily bothered. For so many years, one of his greatest assets was a short memory.
The day after he shot 82 in the final round of the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach when staked to a three-shot lead, he could be found in his boat off the Florida coast without giving it a second thought.
One of the most crushing losses was the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. He went from a 12-foot eagle putt for the win to a three-putt par to finish one shot behind. Johnson headed to Idaho that night.
But now, he can’t wait for the next Major, only five months away.
It will be the shortest time any Masters champion gets to keep the green jacket with him. Johnson knows one will always be waiting for him in the locker room at Augusta.