After years of runner-ups and near misses, Dustin Johnson finally won a major, taking home the U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club.
Unfortunately, his long-awaited victory was marred by a controversial rules violation. Johnson, who shot a 69 on Sunday, was assessed a one-shot penalty because his ball moved as he was about to attempt a 6-foot putt for par on the fifth hole.
Hunter Mahan thought the incident, if you can call it that, was much ado about nothing.
“When you play U.S. Open greens at that speed with the slope, there’s a lot of guys who have walked on the greens – players and caddies – and the greens aren’t perfect,” the PGA golfer said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “We’ve got these little bumps and indentations from guys walking on them. It wasn’t his fault. The greens weren’t perfect, and the ball moved. It’s about as cut and dry as it gets. That’s why you have an official there. You go right to him and he makes a ruling, and that official made a ruling. All of a sudden, things got crazy. I saw it and it was about as cut and dry as it gets. You don’t need this big scientific reason for why the ball moved. It was just really an embarrassment and it takes away from what Dustin Johnson did. He played an incredible round of golf on the Sunday of a U.S. Open.”
Fortunately, Johnson won the Open by three strokes over Shane Lowry, Jim Furyk and Scott Piercy, so the penalty didn’t affect the outcome.
Or did it?
“He might have used that (penalty) as motivation,” Mahan said. “He might have thought, ‘You know what? I’m just going to try to win this thing by so many shots that this won’t even be an issue.’ The way he finished 18, it almost feels like that’s what he was thinking. He’s like, ‘I’m just going to birdie this hole, and it’s over. I’m just going to slam the door shut on this.’ He did that and he went out and just won the tournament. His greatest strength is he just keeps moving on. He doesn’t overthink things, which, when you play an individual sport and you have a lot of time to think between shots, you can do (that) very easily. He went straight to the next shot and started playing golf again. It was a very impressive performance.”
Johnson, 31, had finished in the top five at all four majors, including runner-ups at the British Open and U.S. Open in 2011 and 2015, respectively, before winning his first championship Sunday.
“Super talented, huge length off the tee – he makes it look so easy,” Mahan said. “Great players do that. They make things that look so difficult really easy. His ability to just kind of move on – he doesn’t dwell on things, he doesn’t overcomplicate things, you never see him get mad at himself, you never see him really curse on a golf course or have big overreactions. He just kind of moves on. He’s extremely confident in his abilities and he just plays golf. That’s what he did this weekend. He is who he is and how he plays showed up on Sunday. It’s a sign of a great golfer.”
Thankfully for Johnson, he didn’t have to fend off Jordan Spieth, Jason Day or Rory McIlroy during the final holes.
“He really was the favorite,” Mahan said. “There really weren’t a whole lot of huge names coming into the weekend, and I think a lot of people expected him to win. That really shows you something: When somebody expects you to do it and you come through and do it, (it’s impressive).”
Doug Gottlieb asked Mahan what Johnson is like personally. After all, he is engaged to celebrity Paulina Gretzky and has tested positive for cocaine.
What do other golfers think of him?
“You will find different opinions (from) different players,” Mahan said. “I don’t know him off the golf course that well. I think he’s very well-liked. I enjoy playing around him and playing golf with him. He’s a guy to be around. Opinions might differ among players, but he kind of has that rock-star appeal. He brings it to the golf course every day, so that’s all you can ask for.”