Tag:british sunday
Posted on: July 17, 2011 3:37 pm

Different twist leads to familiar end for D.J.

SANDWICH, England -- Just like with a certain left-handed fellow American whose putter failed him, it wasn't exactly hard to pinpoint the moment that cost Dustin Johnson a shot at the world's oldest major.

After making two birdies on the back nine to move within two strokes of leader and playing partner Darren Clarke, a hole on which Johnson's length should have been decisive turned into his complete undoing.

Ultimately, it was an advantage only in theory.

On the par-5 14th, Johnson jacked a 2-iron approach shot out of bounds, leading to a double-bogey and ending any realistic chance of catching Clarke, who cruised to a three-stroke lead over Johnson and Phil Mickelson.

Johnson, playing in the final group for the third time in the past six Grand Slam events, once again was left to watch another man raise a trophy overhead.

"It was brutal out there," Johnson said. "I think I held up pretty well. I hung in there all day, made some birdies on the back to get back in there and just unfortunately made the double bogey on 14, which really just took all my momentum out."

We figured that part out already. If the outcome seems vaguely familiar, Johnson had well-chronicled Sunday missteps in the final group at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship last year, which he seemed to shake off quickly.

"He got off to a shaky start, but D.J. is a fighter, he won’t quit," swing coach Butch Harmon said. "He hung in there beautifully and came back and made those birdies to get right back at the top of the leaderboard.
"He did the hard part on 14 -- he hit the drive perfect. He had just put that 2-iron in the bag this week, he hadn’t played with a 2-iron all year and he figured he'd hit it up in front of the green and make a birdie and get within one or so of the lead.

"And then disaster strikes. It's a cruel game."

No doubt, and Johnson was already second-guessing himself.

"I probably should have hit 3-wood," he said. "I mean, I'm two back with the rest of the holes coming in are pretty tough. Out here you don't really get too many opportunities to make birdie, so it was definitely a 'go' situation."

Johnson started the day one shot behind Clarke, then fell behind by four heading to the back nine. Birdies on Nos. 10 and 12 seemingly set the stage for the 14th, where Johnson's strength -- he led the field in driving distance -- should have given him a look at birdie or eagle. A debilitating double was the result instead.

"It's a tough shot because you've got O.B. just to the right of the green, it's into the wind, you’re trying to chase a low, hot iron up there and bounce it up on the front of the green and you just don’t pull it off," Harmon said. "He's not wanting to finish second, he's trying to win and he knows Darren has been unflappable and you've got to do something. He tried to do it and it just didn’t work."

Johnson, 27, has a remarkably laid-back personality, but you have to wonder if there's any cumulative damage accumulating given the way things have played out for him in the majors lately.
"It always bothers you, but you can’t go back and replay it so you have to go forward and take the positives from it," Harmon said. "He played phenomenally all week, he really did.

"He made one bad swing with a 2-iron and it cost him having a chance. I'm not sure he would have won because Clarke was playing so well."

Johnson was left to repeat a phrase that he admittedly has uttered far too many times of late.

"Obviously, like I say all the time," he said, "the more I put myself in this situation, the better, the more I learn, the more I understand my game and what happens in this situation."

So far, what's happened has mostly been hurtful.

"He is one of the most resilient players I have ever seen," Harmon said. "He'll be back."

Posted on: July 17, 2011 9:41 am

Will luck decide champ at quirky St. George's?

SANDWICH, England -- You've been forewarned.

If the fate involved in links golf can sometimes be a bit too random for your tastes, what with the cruel bounces, curvaceous fairways and heightened possibility of luck entering the equation, then Sunday's final round might be something worth skipping.

If there is a playoff at the 140th British Open, it will take place on the first and 18th holes, with each of them played twice as part of the four-hole aggregate used to break ties at this particular major. Not only is it a little odd that the same holes would be played twice, but those two fairways are perhaps the most over-cooked on the entire Royal St. George's layout.

With so many bumps and swales, including some outright edges on knolls in certain spots, the fairways have been difficult for players to find, with balls bounding sideways into the rough despite proper execution. In fact, the field this week has found the first fairway only 40 percent of the time. The 18th isn’t much better at 45 percent.

What's that mean?

Well, in the event of a playoff, the "champion golfer of the year" could be decided by a random act of blind luck, a fortunate carom or sideways bounce of his opponent, rather a decisive shot of his own.

Really hope it doesn’t come to that, because players have been critical enough of the capricious bounces at St. George's already. Luck is always a part of the game. But at St. George's, some believe it plays far too large a role.

Category: Golf
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