Dustin Johnson buried his major championship demons in dramatic fashion today, winning the US Open at Oakmont Country Club despite a rules controversy.
A year after three-putting the final green from 4m to lose the US Open at Chambers Bay, Johnson survived despite having a penalty stroke hanging over his head for the final seven holes.
The powerhouse world No.6, who had found himself on the wrong side of rules infractions and late collapses in several previous major championships, was approached on the 12th tee by a USGA official who informed him of an impending review into an incident from which he was exonerated at the time.
In question was whether or not Johnson contributed to a moving ball on the fifth green, the official indicating he could face a one-shot penalty after the round – a ruling later upheld.
At the time he led by two and it clearly rattled his nerves for a few holes as he fell back into a tie.
But the 31-year-old rebounded as others faltered, extending his advantage so far that it didn’t make the ultimate ruling consequential, much, no doubt, to the relief of the USGA.
Adding to the relief for Johnson was the spectacular way in which he finished the tournament – rifling his approach to the 18th inside a metre from where he tapped in his third birdie in what ultimately became a round of 69.
His official four-under total was good for a three-shot win over third-round leader Shane Lowry, who started four shots clear, but imploded late with the putter with a 76 to fall to one under.
Americans Scott Piercy (69) and Jim Furyk (66) joined him as runners-up.
World No.1 Jason Day looked like he might make a late charge to an improbable victory before the penultimate hole scuppered his chances.
Day eagled the 12th and birdied the 13th holes to jump to one under par and suddenly in the mix amid the drama behind.
But when he found the bunker on the driveable par-four 17th and trickled his second shot into another trap, then left it in that sand for his third, his charge was over.
A double-bogey and a bogey up the last meant a final-round 71 and two-over finish in a tie for eighth.
Adam Scott finished with a flat four-over-74 to be six over, joining Marc Leishman (69) in a tie for 18th position after the Victorian fired a day’s best seven birdies, but also added six bogeys.
Cameron Smith had huge driving issues finding only five fairways en route to an uncharacteristic 79 and a 15-over finish that left him tied for 59th.
Johnson had 11 previous top-10 major championship finishes without winning. Among several close calls, he took the lead into the 2010 US Open final round before shooting an 82. He was set to be in a playoff in the 2010 PGA Championship before a two-shot penalty was assessed on the final hole.
And, of course, the three-putt last year from which many thought he mightn’t recover.
And you could tell by the enormous smile on his face that nobody was more relieved than Johnson himself.
“It feels good, it feels really good, it feels really well deserved,” he said.
“I’ve had a lot of opportunities that I didn’t quite get it done, so this one’s definitely really sweet.”