UPDATE: After his round, Dustin Johnson withdrew from the 3M Open, citing a back injury.
How do you make sense of Dustin Johnson’s last few weeks?
First there was the Travelers Championship, where Johnson threw down his A game, shot 19 under and won a tournament for the 13th consecutive PGA Tour season.
His next start came at Muirfield Village at last week’s Memorial Tournament. In the first round, Johnson looked decidedly off, shooting eight-over 80. An aberration, right? Maybe not. Johnson followed that up with a second-round eight-over 80, too. One start after beating every player in the field, Johnson beat exactly one player.
Still, he seemed unconcerned heading into this week’s 3M Open.
“I just struggled. It was one of those weeks,” he said of his Memorial woes.
But when Johnson teed it up on Thursday, he ran into some of the same scoring issues. The World No. 4 was actually one under through his first six holes before disaster struck. He played the next six holes bogey-double-quad-par-bogey-bogey, torpedoing his round and his tournament chances in the process — and making another round of 80 a distinct possibility.
Let’s zero in on one hole from that stretch, though: that quad, which came at No. 18 at TPC Twin Cities. Every 9 made on the PGA Tour is special, but not all are created equal. Johnson’s hole got off to a promising start: he found the fairway with a searing drive, leaving just over 200 yards to the pin.
“Hit a great drive on 18 and we only had like 199 to cover from where I was, 208 flag, it was a perfect 6-iron,” Johnson remembered. “I hit it right at it and never once did I think it was going to go in the water. That never crossed my mind when it was in
Unfortunately for Johnson, that ball did find the water, failing to cover the pond guarding the front of the green. He dropped in the fairway, then hit another iron at the green. Short again. Drop again. Short again. Drop again. The sequence was relatable to the average golfer but fascinating to watch for one of this generation’s best players. Then, after looking very much like one of the thousands watching him from their couch, Johnson stuck his 8th shot inside three feet, leaving a kick-in for quadruple bogey.
What happens for a pro to make a 9? What was going through Johnson’s head? After his round, he had a simple, hilarious explanation for how the hole played out.
“It just went in the water and I hit two more shots in the water, then I hit a good one. Made a tap-in for a 9.”
Undeniably true. The quote called to mind an old Seve Ballesteros line, when he was asked to explain a four-putt at the Masters. “I miss, I miss, I miss, I make,” he said.
Johnson pulled his round together, making five consecutive pars to ensure that he just needed to make par on his final hole to break 80. Instead, he rolled in a 19-foot birdie putt, his first in 15 holes. Johnson was still in last place, but he nearly cracked a smile.
Another round in the books, and still no chance of making sense of the game of golf.