June 20, 2010
Few golfers have held a three-stroke lead going into the final day of the U.S. Open. Some, like Tiger Woods in 2000, put the lead in a hammerlock. Others, like Dustin Johnson on Sunday, find that holding the lead is like holding onto smoke.
In the space of three nightmarish holes, Johnson went from three strokes up on eventual winner Graeme McDowell to three strokes off the lead. He carded triple bogey/double bogey/bogey on holes 2-4, and it's only because he was so far out in front as of Saturday that his entire U.S. Open hadn't gone up in flames in 20 minutes.
It began on the par-4 second with the triple bogey and continued on the third, where Johnson blasted his tee shot so far left that it got lost in a forest behind a grandstand. Johnson had five minutes to find his shot, and it took him five minutes and 19 seconds.
Oh, but it got worse. He sent a chip weakly off the hosel of his club, and then plunged his tee shot on the fourth hole off the edge of a cliffside. As the day went on, putt after putt lipped out of the hole, leaving Johnson staring in disbelief at how his dream evaporated so quickly.
[Photos: See Johnson's final-round collapse]
Johnson isn't the first golfer in recent memory to plummet off the back edge of the leaderboard on the final day of the U.S. Open. In 2007 at Oakmont, Aaron Baddeley couldn't hold a two-shot lead for even one hole, triple-bogeying the first en route to a 10-over 80. Two years earlier at Pinehurst, Jason Gore recorded a gut-punch 84 that dropped him from second to 49th place.
Johnson ended up with an 82, the highest final-round score by a 54-hole leader in decades. He would finish five strokes behind McDowell.
The round is, mercifully, over for Johnson, but the scars from this debacle will be a long time in healing.
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