Dustin Johnson buries struggles, dominates the Masters

Associated PressDustin Johnson reacts after winning the Masters golf tournament Sunday.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — In this one-of-a-kind Masters that had no fans and no roars, Dustin Johnson made sure it had no drama. And when he polished off his five-shot victory Sunday with lowest score in tournament history, he had no words.

Only tears.

Looking smart in his Masters green jacket he dreamed his whole life of winning, Johnson spoke to a small gathering on the putting green in absence of the official ceremony, but only briefly. In control of every aspect of his game on a course that never allows anyone to relax, he couldn’t speak when it was over. Instead, he turned to wipe his eyes.

“I’ve never had this much trouble gathering myself,” Johnson finally said. “On the golf course, I’m pretty good at it.”

No one was better. Not even close.

Johnson overcame a nervous start that conjured memories of past majors he failed to finish off, and then delivered a command performance that added his own touch to a Masters unlike another.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the first played in November. It was the first without ropes and without roars because patrons were not allowed, only one guest for each player, coaches, Augusta National members and officials.

Leading by two shots heading into Amen Corner, the world’s No. 1 player got through the 12th hole — where Tiger Woods earlier hit three balls in Rae’s Creek and made 10 — and then ran off three straight birdies to pull away from Cameron Smith and Sungjae Im, the only players who had a chance.

Johnson closed with a 4-under 68 and finished at 20-under 268, breaking by two shots the record set by Tiger Woods in 1997 and matched by Jordan Spieth in 2015.

He had only four bogeys in 72 holes, another record, this one held by Jack Nicklaus and Jimmy Demaret. He missed only 12 greens all week, a record last set by Woods.

All that mattered was that green jacket. Nothing ever comes easily for Johnson in the majors. Nothing looked so natural as seeing Woods, the defending champion, help him into that size 42 long in Butler Cabin.

“Having Tiger put it on was awesome. You wouldn’t want it any other way,” Johnson said. And then he smiled before adding, “But any guy could put it on me and I’d be just fine.”

His five-shot victory was the largest at the Masters since Woods won by 12 in 1997. All that was missing were the roars from a crowd for any of his pivotal putts early and his birdie putts on the back nine that put it away.

It wasn’t the loneliest walk up the hill to the 18th green. About 250 people offering warm applause and partner Paulina Gretzky rushed onto the green to celebrate with Johnson and his brother, caddie Austin Johnson.

Johnson now has two majors to go along with his 25 victories worldwide, a combination that validates him as one of the greats of his generation.

Gone are the doubts that he could hold a lead in the major on the final day. Four times he had gone into the final round with at least a share of the lead without winning. Johnson had questions, too. His only major was the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 2016 when he rallied from four shots behind.

“I’m sure a lot of you all think ... there were doubts in my mind, just because I had been there. I’m in this position a lot of times,” Johnson said. “When am I going to have the lead and finishing off a major? It definitely proved that I can do it.”

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