How Dustin Johnson nearly pulled off golf’s version of a perfect game

They say this game cannot be perfected. Golf always finds a way to punish you, even during the best of rounds. 

Dustin Johnson tested that truth at Augusta National on Saturday. Johnson’s second 65 of this 2020 Masters was perhaps the most effortless performance we’ve seen from the 36-year-old. And that’s saying something from a player who makes the game look easier than just about anyone else. 

Johnson was pristine off the tee. Fourteen fairways hit in 14 tries, with driver nearly every step, or swing, of the way. But that wasn’t all. DJ’s ball-striking was peerless throughout the bag. If it wasn’t for two missed greens, he would have delivered golf’s version of a perfect game.

Johnson missed the 12th green and the 18th green, though he got up and down for par both times. And even then, that’s not the whole story. Johnson barely missed the 12th green, by a matter of inches, pin-high. And on the 18th, again he was pin-high, though his approach leaked out maybe 20 feet right of the green. From both spots, he putted. Smooth, stress-free golf. 

The near-perfect day was so impressive it got Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee and 15th Club statistician Justin Ray thinking about its place in the pantheon of great rounds. While it isn’t clear if anyone has hit every fairway and 18 greens in a Tour event, it hasn’t happened in a major in the last three decades, according to Ray. 

Chamblee took it even further from the set of Live From the Masters:

“I almost feel like I’m talking about a perfect game that was lost on the 27th batter,” Chamblee said. “Because he hit every single fairway and missed that 12th green by just inches coming into the 18th green. That’s how close this was from tee-to-green to being the most perfect round of golf ever played in the statistical era of major championships. Because no player has hit every fairway and every green. That’s how close Dustin Johnson came to perfect today, it was right there.”

The way Johnson was striking it Saturday, he probably could have hit those two approaches on to the 12th and 18th greens blindfolded if he had a second chance. That’s how good he was, shooting the round of the day by two strokes. As a result he’ll have a four-shot lead when he wakes up Sunday morning with 18 holes between him and green jacket. 

Sean Zak Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine and just finished a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews.