The Loop

Johnson's collapse draws sympathy from peers

June 20, 2010

PEBBLE BEACH -- It wasn't quite a wake, but it was close.

"I felt sorry for him," Graeme McDowell said.

"It happens," Phil Mickelson said.

"Just because you are playing well it doesn't mean it can't happen to you," Tiger Woods added.

It was Sunday evening at Pebble Beach and they had all just watched Dustin Johnson's three-shot lead in the U.S. Open disappear in a blur of 82 strokes. Lost balls. Whiffs out of the rough. Missed short putts. There may have been worse collapses in a major championships, but never has there been a performance that stood in such stark contrast to what came before, when Johnson's third-round 66 placed him on the precipice of superstardom.

It was all gone in a matter of minutes. A triple-bogey 7 on the second, a driver on No. 3 that vanished into the gunk. By the time the 25-year-old Johnson had walked off that green, he was already forced to play catch up.

"I said yesterday that if the Dustin Johnson that played on Saturday showed up today he was going to be tough to handle," McDowell said. "And I felt sorry for him the way he started. Like I said, we've all been there."

So confident a day earlier, Johnson was forced to watch McDowell celebrate his first major triumph after they both traded pars on 18. He signed his scorecard, emerged from the trailer to hug his girlfriend, then kept on walking.

"Playing so poorly, I still had fun today," Johnson said. "I enjoyed playing today. You know, (I'll) get it done next time."

Within minutes he was gone. It's only fair to ask how long it will take for him to get back.

-- Sam Weinman*