Better To Be Lucky...
British Open 2021: Dustin Johnson recalled his best break in a major (yes, he had a good break in a major once)
For much of the early portion of his career, Dustin Johnson suffered nothing but heartbreak in major championships. After awhile, there was a feeling that the golf gods were simply conspiring against this all-time great talent on the four biggest weeks of the year.
First came the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where Johnson entered the final round leading by three shots and promptly shot a Sunday 82 that featured a pair of duffed chips, a missed two footer and a lost ball... on the first three holes. Two months later, BunkerGate at the PGA at Whistling Straits.
The following summer, at Royal St George's, site of this week's Open Championship, Johnson played alongside Darren Clarke in the final group. After a rough start, he climbed back into contention early on the back nine, then hit one out of bounds from the middle of the 14th fairway and made double bogey. His next truly close call came at the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, where he three-putted on the crispy 72nd green to miss out on an 18-hole playoff with Jordan Spieth.
Bad bounces, unlucky breaks and overall terrible energy was all Johnson knew in the majors for a long time. Finally, at the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont, that changed, though it also sort of didn't. Early in the final round, a video of Johnson seemingly causing his ball to move became the latest sign that this whole major thing just wasn't going to work out for DJ. He was ultimately penalized after having the potential penalty hang over his head the entire day, but, luckily, he still won by three.
There was, however, one good break for Johnson on that Sunday, and you better believe he remembers it very well.
"The one that sticks out, probably getting a drop on No. 10 at Oakmont," Johnson said on Wednesday at The Open. "I think that was on Sunday, too. Because of the sign or the TV tower being in my way. Obviously it gave me a chance to hit it on the green, where I probably wouldn't have been able to hit it on the green from where I was."
The moment Johnson is referring to did occur on Sunday at the par-4 10th, where Johnson missed the fairway so badly with his drive that he nearly ended up in the ninth fairway down the left side. His ball came to rest in an impossibly thick lie in the rough that would have forced him to just chop it back out into the fairway, but Johnson called for a rules official, as there was a TV tower directly between his ball and his line to the green. He was granted line of sight relief, which allowed him to drop the ball in the first cut of the ninth fairway:
At the time, this seemed like a bit of a gaming-the-system type move, especially when Johnson wound up hitting it directly over the TV tower anyway and wound up making par. But, as David Fay perfectly explained in the clip, he was entitled to the relief he got and is not required to play the shot a certain way. Also, wasn't DJ owed one? No wonder he remembers this good break so well. It's one of the only ones the golf gods have ever given him.
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