Just a month ago, Dustin Johnson was holed up in a Las Vegas hotel room self-quarantining for 11 days after testing positive for COVID-19.
Now, after a week of record-setting brilliance in the Masters, he can head to the exclusive Champions Locker Room at Augusta National for the rest of his life.
The world No. 1 played to his ranking with a masterful performance and put a few negative, tragic near-misses and collapses in the final rounds of past majors behind him on Sunday by winning the coveted green jacket in the 84th Masters.
With rounds of 65-70-65-68, Johnson, who tied for second behind Tiger Woods last year, finished five shots clear of the field and set the tournament scoring record for 72 holes with his 20-under 268. That was two shots clear of the previous mark set by Jordan Spieth (2015) and Woods (1997).
Johnson, 36, is the only player ever to reach and finish 20 under in a Masters. It was the second major title for Johnson, who won the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont, and his 24th PGA Tour title.
And it fulfilled a childhood dream of the young boy growing up on the outskirts of Columbia, South Carolina, about an hour down the road, putting and chipping long into the night fantasizing about winning the Masters.
“Still kind of think it’s a dream,” Johnson said. “Growing up so close to here, it’s always been a tournament that since I’ve been on Tour, since I played my first Masters, it’s been the tournament I wanted to win the most.”
Johnson began the final round with a four-shot lead but saw it dwindle to one shot by the sixth hole. But there, he hit an 8-iron to six feet and made birdie and never let anyone get within two shots the rest of the way. He upped his unreachable lead with birdies at 13, 14 and 15. Coming up 18, the carefree, laid-back Johnson didn’t know how big his lead was. Didn’t matter. He tapped in for par and the man who has been criticized for only winning one major up to then had No. 2.
“Obviously the first major’s the hardest, but then I would say the second one is just as hard,” he said. “They are all difficult to win. It’s just hard to get it done in a major for some reason. I’ve had the lead a couple times and haven’t been able to finish it off, and so it is very nice to have a lead and then play well on Sunday and get the win. I couldn’t be more happy.”
Johnson teared up during the ceremony following the tournament, a rare sight for a man who hides his emotions so well. But more than an hour later, he was still beaming as he walked the grounds in his new green jacket – size 42 long – that Woods helped him slip on.
Obviously having Tiger put it on was awesome and unbelievable and, you know, you wouldn’t want it any other way,” Johnson said. “But any guy could put it on me and I’d be just fine.”
As for those who fell short, poor Cameron Smith. He did something Hogan, Snead, Player, Nicklaus, Palmer, Woods and everyone else who’s ever played here never did by becoming the first player in Masters history to shoot all four rounds in the 60s – 67-68-69-69. And he still lost by five. He finished in a tie for second with Masters rookie Sungjae Im at 15 under.
“I honestly can’t believe it, but just got to put it down to just scrambling and digging deep,” Smith said. “There was a few times throughout week where I could have let it slip away, and it didn’t.”
In solo fourth was world No. 3 Justin Thomas, who shot 70 to finish at 12 under. Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy stormed back from an opening-round 75 to finish in a tie for fifth at 11 under with Dylan Frittelli.
Five-time Masters champion Woods tied for 38th in his title defense and made a 10 in the 12th hole in his round of 76, which was his highest score ever in the Masters as a professional. The 10 – he hit three balls into Rae’s Creek – was also the highest score he’s ever recorded on any hole in his PGA Tour career.