Van Cynical: The Real Reason Dustin Johnson Didn’t Win the U.S. Open

June 23, 2015

The U.S. Open finish at Chambers Bay was a drag in the sense that nobody wants to see a player lose the Open. Everybody wants to see a player win it.

Dustin Johnson had a 12-foot putt for eagle to win and rolled it less than three feet past. The USGA’s shot-tracker listed it at four feet but I didn’t think it was that long. Anyway, DJ missed that one, too, and missed a chance to come back Monday for another 18 with Jordan Spieth.

That last miss was what technically lost the Open for Johnson but he’d been losing it all day in Sunday’s final round.

You wonder what’s keeping Johnson from winning a major with all his talent? Simple. It’s the putter.

These were his misses in Sunday’s final round, according to USGA’s shot tracker:

No. 2: Miss from 9 feet.

No. 3: Miss from 5 feet.

No. 10: Miss from 6 feet.

No. 11: Miss from 6 feet.

No. 12: Miss from 7 feet.

No. 13: Miss from 5 feet.

No. 16: Miss from 9 feet.

No. 18: Miss from 4 feet.

That’s five misses from six feet or less. Using a designated putter, Johnson may have run away with the Open at Chambers Bay. But golf doesn’t allow a DP, so he had to settle for runner-up.

Given his dismal putting on the first 17 holes, you may argue that maybe he should’ve tried to lag the eagle putt on 18 instead of trying to make it, as Johnson said he did.

Nah, I’m with Johnson on this one. He should’ve gone for the win. In an 18-hole playoff, whose putter is going to win the U.S. trophy—Johnson’s or Spieth’s? You know the answer.

Just a reminder: Golf is all about putting just like baseball is all about pitching. That’s why Spieth’s future is so much brighter than Johnson’s.

And now, the flounders get their chance to send me fan mail. Enter the Van Cynical Mailbag zone:

Van Cyclamates, Have you ever seen a legit golf tournament where players have no idea which tees are going to be used? Or changing par on a hole? Why can’t the USGA leave well enough alone? It’s like they always need to prove how smart they are.—BustinPar, via Twitter

I’ll give Mike Davis a pass on the tees, Busty. You can’t make a golf course long enough for today’s pros but you can maybe get in their heads and maybe affect their preparation. Changing par on 1 and 18 was another failed experiment. The 18th didn’t have a good landing area for a par-4, nor is the green receptive to a long iron shot. Jordan Spieth called it the “dumbest hole he’d ever played” as a 4 (coincidentally, the USGA wisely left it a par 5 for Sunday and it provided the ultimate drama). Mistakes like that continue to prove just how smart the USGA is… if you get my drift.

Van Cynical, Were any writers invited to putt the greens after the rounds to give their opinions on the conditions? If not, they should have been.—John Harvey, via Twitter

Hah. The USGA couldn’t be less interested in what writers think and that’s beside the point that very few golf writers have single-digit handicaps (I’m scratch, by the way, and the only writer I know who actually competes in tournament play). The print media is far down the list of priorities. The USGA does have one billion reasons to care what the TV guys think, though. And now you know the rest of the story, Mr. Harvey.

Van Cyclical, Chambers Bay is trash.—APerfectSonnet, via Twitter

Blunt and to the point. But kind of short for a sonnet, no?

Sickle scythe, If they make the greens smoother and less undulating, does the course have enough defense against the pros to host an Open?—Jeffbogus, via Twitter

Hey, that’s an interesting concept, Bogus Guy. Defend par by making the greens crappy! Not a bad idea. I’d say Chambers Bay still has plenty for the pros. Just play all the par-3 tees back and you’re looking at a nightmare, for starters.

Van the Man, Why can’t the USGA admit its mistake? Really?—TexDanR, via Twitter

You ever know any bosses who admitted mistakes, Tex? Like the guys who first hired us? The fescue greens were a failed experiment because they aren’t sturdy enough for a full week’s tourney traffic and they were also being invaded by poa annua. Just give up on having fescue greens, let the poa annua come in and you can bring the Open back to Washington in 10 or 12 years.

Sicko, Were the greens the sole problem? I don’t see how spectating improves without bulldozing half the property.—TNCowboy, via Twitter

Chambers Bay was the worst spectator course in major championship history. You can retire the trophy, in fact. You could easily fix a number of holes, Cowboy, by bulldozing the fescue-covered berms around the greens and between holes. Most of those fake mounds were put in to hide paved cart paths. Unfortunately, they blocked the view of the holes for fans. Considering they knew they were building a course for tournament play, that was dumb, dumb, dumb and should be fixed.

Van Cynical, I know DJ will be fine but will he be back on that horse in time for the Open Championship? Contends?—Ryan Beal, via Twitter

He’ll be riding something between now and the Open—maybe the talking white horse from the Hannah Davis and Her Horse commercials. That horse crushes Mr. Ed. Yes, D.J. contends at the Old Course. He can hit it 350 as far left as he wants on most holes and still have a shot. Also, the greens there are usually kept at remedial speeds, which might help his mediocre-at-best putting.

Vans, if all the greens were 100 percent fescue, there would be less complaining.—Eric Tauriainen, via Twitter

Agree with that, E.T. But they aren’t and keeping poa annua out is a costly war that might ultimately not be winnable. Oh, and don’t forget to phone home, buddy.

Sickle cell, Were the greens really that bad? If they were, isn’t that a sacking offense?—Declan, via Twitter

There were four notably poor greens, a couple other shaky ones. Even nice guy Ernie Els was appalled by the greens, which he said were already dead. “The agronomy was a disaster,” he said. “There is no excuse for that.” Not with the kind of money the USGA threw at the problem.

Vans, Congrats for being the only SI Golf expert to predict Spieth’s win. Another blind squirrel moment?—Jeff Brooke, via Twitter

Since another guy three-putted from 12 feet to give him the win, I’d say yes. I’d also say my analysis was right on—that caddie Michael Greller probably saved him the two or three shots that were the difference.

Hey Vans, Hating the taxman as much as I do, how much of the $1.8 million does Spieth take home after he pays everyone?—BigMark, via Twitter

We’re really going to test my math skills, Deutsche Mark? I’m not a tax guy and I didn’t even stay at a Holiday Inn last night. Well, caddies usually get 10 percent for a win. So there goes $180,000. Some agents get 10-15 percent of everything, including prize money. I wouldn’t know Jordan’s contract but that’s a possibility. Washington State has no personal income tax but I couldn’t find any info on whether his $1.8 million falls into a business tax category. Spieth lives in Texas, which also has no personal income tax. However, your pals at the IRS are going to hit him with the max 39.6 percent tax rate (based on the 2014 IRS tax table). He can deduct his caddie’s pay so based on $1.62 in earnings, he’d owe $641,520 in taxes. Add in the caddie’s $180k and Jordan’s take-home is down to $978,480 based on my sure-to-be-faulty calculations.

Vans, Destiny’s Child is definitely not, nor ever was… a rock group.—Scott Kruh

Pardon my gross simplification so uninformed readers would know they’re in music. So you’re saying they never existed? That’s just cruel.

Cynical Czar, Good call on Joe Buck’s “By the throat comment.” That was absurd.—PurdueMatt

Thanks, PM. It was worse that Greg Norman didn’t correct him. I know Fox Sports will have growing pains on its golf coverage but Joe Buck just lost me forever. 

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