Dustin Johnson wins his first Masters title with a record-setting score
“I’m sorry,” he said, handing back the microphone that CBS had given him. “I couldn’t even talk.”
Always a man of few words, Johnson could find even fewer, getting as far as “It’s a dream come true —" before repeatedly wiping his eyes and taking deep breaths to gather himself.
The world’s No. 1 golfer, who grew up an hour’s drive northeast of Augusta National, had just won his second major championship in spectacular fashion. He was 20 under par after four rounds, breaking the tournament record by two strokes, and winning by five.
Though wobbly early with back-to-back bogeys on Holes 4 and 5, Johnson pulled away from the field down the stretch and had three birdies in a row — on 13, 14 and 15. His scores were 65-70-65-68.
Tiger Woods finishes with a 10 on the par-three 12th hole at Augusta National during the final round of the Masters on Sunday.
“Just growing up so close to here, it’s always been a tournament that, since I’ve been on tour, since I played my first Masters, it’s been the tournament I wanted to win the most,” said the 36-year-old Johnson, who was raised in Columbia, S.C. “You know, being close the last couple years, finishing second last year to Tiger, this one was just something that I really wanted to do.”
A month ago, Johnson was out of commission, having tested positive for the coronavirus. He withdrew from the CJ Cup and had to quarantine in his Las Vegas hotel room for 11 days.
“You sit in the hotel room for two weeks, it doesn’t do a lot for the golf game,” said Johnson, who missed the Zozo Championship at Sherwood Country Club but decided to play the Vivant Houston Open the following week as a tuneup for Augusta.
In this weirdest of years, with the Masters postponed from April to November, and no spectators — here they’re referred to as “patrons” — the ending felt appropriately strange and anticlimactic, especially in light of Tiger Woods’ heart-rending victory 19 months earlier.
But behind the scenes, even Woods felt that surge of emotion after helping Johnson into his new green jacket. Woods stood at the edge of the green and watched the new champion receive the silver, clubhouse-shaped trophy.
“This is awesome,” Woods said in a stage whisper to no one in particular. Before Johnson, he was the last world No. 1 to win the Masters, his third of five in 2002.
Australia’s Cameron Smith and South Korea’s Sungjae Im, a Masters newcomer, finished tied for second at 15 under.
ESPN noted Johnson was just the fourth golfer in 50 years to win the Masters by five or more strokes, joining Woods (12 in 1997), Nick Faldo (five in 1996), and Raymond Floyd (eight in 1976).
The clinching moment Sunday was as muted as the laconic Johnson. He didn’t even have the final putt. He tapped in for par at 18 to enthusiastic applause from the Augusta members and volunteers ringing the green — akin to the energy of a club championship — retrieved the ball and gave a subtle fist pump. As almost an afterthought, it was Im who had the last putt, like a free throw after both teams had left the court.
Johnson’s fianceé, Paulina Gretzky, daughter of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, jogged to him and threw her arms around him. She also hugged his caddie, Austin Johnson, who is Dustin’s younger brother.
Among those who congratulated Johnson as he walked off the 18th green was fellow competitor Bubba Watson, who had his moment in the spotlight eight years earlier.
Johnson motioned to the green jacket of the 2012 winner and said: “I’ve always wanted one of those.”
Yes, always. It’s a mistake, his brother/caddie said, to confuse Dustin’s cool demeanor for a lack of desire.
“He doesn’t throw clubs or curse me or do any of that stuff,” said Austin, a former college basketball player who is three years younger. “That’s because he’s a class act, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. Guy cares more than anybody.
Every shot from Dustin Johnson’s final round at the Masters.
“Just because we’re Southern guys — laid back, we talk a little slow — everybody thinks we just don’t really care. But we put in every bit of work that everybody else does out here.”
That said, Dustin Johnson was not keeping track of what else was happening on the course.
“I was looking at the scoreboard the whole time,” his brother said. “When we were walking up the 18th green, he asked me how we stood. I told him we had a five-shot lead and we could probably kick it in from there. He had no clue.”
Johnson was in his own little world. And now, he, his brother, their wives, and two other couples will head to St. Barts for a week on the beach. No jacket required.
Forgive him if he packs one anyway.
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