Dustin Johnson gets runner-up Grand Slam as thrilling PGA upset bid falls short

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Dustin Johnson gets runner-up Grand Slam as thrilling PGA upset bid falls short

PGA Championship

Dustin Johnson gets runner-up Grand Slam as thrilling PGA upset bid falls short

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FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – There’s a decent-sized TV in the scoring tent behind the practice green at Bethpage Black, but Dustin Johnson didn’t stick around to catch the end of the 101st PGA Championship.

He watched Brooks Koepka miss his drive in the left rough on 18 and then he walked out the door, seemingly never entertaining the idea that his buddy would double bogey the last to force a playoff.

Koepka got out of the rough with little trouble and up and down for par from there, clinching a 2-shot victory for his fourth major championship.

On paper, it will go down as another near-miss for Johnson at a major, one that actually has some historical significance. A 1-under 69 in the final round to grab solo second at 6 under gave Johnson the Close Call Grand Slam and the distinction of having finished runner-up in each of the four majors.

  • SCORES: 101st PGA Championship
  • He was asked about it in a radio interview immediately after signing his scorecard. The usually-stoic Johnson broke character with some spot-on sarcasm.

    “Yaaaaay. I’m so excited,” Johnson said.

    It was really genuinely funny. Everyone was cracking up, Johnson included.

    It was hard to believe DJ of all people was joking around after letting a chance at a playoff slip away with bogeys at No. 16 and 17, but it made sense because there was so little time to process his late charge amid four consecutive bogeys from Koepka.

    Johnson was seven shots back to start the day, he shot 3-under on the front nine, and he was still six shots behind when he bogeyed No. 11 at 4:48 p.m.

    Exactly one hour later, Johnson was within one shot of the lead after a birdie at No. 15. It was an amazing turn of events, Johnson’s surge on the heels of Koepka’s stunning slide.

    Most thought this tournament had been over since Friday and Johnson brought it back to life Sunday afternoon. The fans were going absolutely insane for DJ, even cheering openly for Koepka’s bad shots.

    It’s not that they hate Koepka. They just wanted some real action, and Johnson was the only one willing to stand up and start trading haymakers with big, bad Brooks in the final round.

    “I coudn’t ask any more from the fans,” Johnson said. “They were definitely out there and on my side. They were pulling for me. They were great. It was a lot of fun. You know it’s why we play golf, to be in these kind of situations. And you know, for me, yeah, I had a great time out there today, even in these tough conditions. I gave it a good shot.”

    Johnson said he knew the wind would be tough and he might be able to put some pressure on Koepka with a good score. It’s hard to say whether or not he realistically believed he could win, but his fourth birdie of the week at No. 15 – the hardest hole on the course with an average score of 4.36 – put him in position to do just that.

    His approach after a perfect drive at No. 16 went long and he failed to get up and down for par. Same deal at the par-3 17th after missing the green long and right.

    It all happened so fast that it seemed like Johnson was still processing everything after signing his scorecard, realizing that three pars to finish would have been good enough for a playoff.

    “After birdying 15 to get back to 8 under …. I didn’t really need to do much at all. Now you look at it, I didn’t really need to do anything,” Johnson said.

    How does Johnson end up in this position so often? How is it that Johnson has 14 more Tour wins than Koepka and three fewer majors?

    It raises some tough philosophical questions on the very nature of success and how it is measured, questions best left for another day.

    Johnson has had excruciating misses at Pebble Beach, Whistling Straits and Chambers Bay, to name a few, but this one was different.

    The man who arrived this week as World No. 1 with his model fiance was thriving as the scrappy underdog, and he nearly pulled off one hell of an upset Sunday afternoon at Bethpage.

    “Obviously I knew starting seven back that it was going to be a big feat to catch Brooks,” Johnson said. “I definitely gave him a run, though, so I was happy with that.”

         

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