Winners and Losers at Oakmont
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
DUSTIN JOHNSON would be the first to admit that he is not perhaps the brightest light in the house, and that may have helped him to finally secure his first major.
After coming so close so many times before, the Dustinator could have been forgiven for carrying a huge amount of scar tissue, but he has an enviable ability to eliminate bad memories from his mind and get on with the job in hand.
Nothing ever seems to come easy for the Big Man, and his victory at Oakmont was dogged by a rules controversy that saw him given a one-shot penalty. Such was the dominance of his play in the final round that it turned out not to matter.
Johnson drove the ball wonderfully well all week long and kept mistakes to a minimum. When things didn't go to plan, he simply shrugged his shoulders and moved to the next hole, pulled out the driver and smashed the ball 330 yards. Had he putted better, he could have won the 116th US Open by 10 shots or more.
"It means a huge amount to finally get the job done, especially on Father's Day and with my young son, Tatum, there to see it," he said. "The course was in fantastic condition, especially after all the rain we had, and I want to thank the fans for their incredible support." He didn't want to make a big thing about the rules controversy that saw him being given a one-shot penalty.
Johnson has been through some tough times, most of them self-inflicted, and is popular among his fellow professionals. This victory could open the floodgates for him.
While he will be delighted with what he achieved at Oakmont, there are others who will be asking serious questions of themselves. Rory McIlroy, who missed the cut, has now lost his place as world No3 to Johnson, and will be seriously concerned with his play.
He opened with a round of 77 but then reached the turn in 31 during the second round - he dared to dream that he might even be able to get himself back into contention. But then it all began to unravel again. A 12-foot birdie putt turned into four putts, and his woes on the greens continued as he failed to reach the weekend. He had spoken before the tournament about the need to work out a strategy and stick to it, but any strategy he may have laid out for himself was quickly thrown out the window.
He looks like a man who needs to take time off and work out his best way forward - unfortunately, The Open and US PGA Championship are looming. McIlroy needs to find the answers, and quickly. To be fair to him, he has always been a streaky player and may well win those two majors, but don't hold your breath.
Jason Day struggled with his game for much of the week, but it speaks volumes for this man's grit, talent and determination that he stood on the 17th tee with an outside chance of winning. And had his drive at that hole flown 12 inches further he would have been looking at a putt for an eagle two. As it turned out, he found a greenside bunker, cleared the green from that bunker and found more sand. He then took two more to get out of that before two putts for a double-bogey six. He will head to Troon for The Open in buoyant mood.
Jordan Spieth continues to struggle with himself. He played a lot of very good golf throughout the week. He also played some dreadful shots, and missed too many fairways and short putts. Most worrying of all, however, has been his tendency to throw hissy-fits when things don't go his own way. He charmed the world of golf last year, but that will soon all be forgotten if he doesn't quickly learn to take the rough with the smooth.
Shane Lowry will be devastated. He began the final round with a four-shot lead but struggled from the start. His only birdie came at the 12th and his putting let him down badly. Just when he needed to put his foot on the gas, he three-putted three successive greens (the 14th, 15th and 16th) and fluffed a chip on the way to dropping another shot at the reachable par-four 17th. His final round of 76 was not what he had in mind, but Lowry must look at the positives. He has confirmed that he has the game to win majors and he will learn from this experience.
Others to emerge with credit include Branden Grace, Scott Piercy and Andy Sullivan, the ebullient Englishman. But the man whose performance really caught the eye was 46-year-old Jim Furyk. The American was sidelined for nine months after wrist surgery. There is a tendency to rush back too quickly, but Furyk took his time and decided he would not come back until he was happy that he was 100% fit. And here he was shooting a final round of 66 and finishing second at the US Open and looking like he had never been away.
Oakmont is a fantastic test of golf and it recovered amazingly well from the torrential rain that disrupted play on the opening day. The season's second major was marred by the USGA's inability to make a simple rules decision. Fortunately, the right man won in the end.
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