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Dustin Johnson wins first major title

Dustin Johnson had everything going his way Sunday in the U.S. Open.

He was playing the best golf on the toughest course. He had a two-shot lead on the back nine at Oakmont. He even got a huge break on a ruling that allowed him to escape deep rough, the kind of breaks that usually go to major champions.

That's when he saw two USGA officials approach him on the 12th tee. They told him he might get a one-shot penalty for his ball moving on the fifth green. They wouldn't know until after his round.

Try playing the back nine of a U.S. Open with that kind of confusion.

''It's nothing new at this point,'' said Johnson, who has had major mishaps for the last six years. ''It's happened so many times I kind of expect it now.''

The difference was the outcome.

Johnson showed the mettle - and yes, the wits - to finally win a major championship.

''For it to not affect the outcome is fantastic,'' he said. ''It just shows how well I played.''

No one knew if he was leading, tied or one shot behind, and neither did Johnson. He didn't look at a board the rest of the day, taking on each shot regardless of the score and coming up with all the right shots - the 10-foot par save on the 16th, a cautious bunker shot on the 17th, and a 6-iron that settled the score. It dropped down 5 feet from the hole for a birdie that wrapped up a U.S. Open that was overdue.

The USGA wound up giving him the penalty shot after it was over, so Johnson closed with a 1-under 69 for a three-shot victory over Shane Lowry, Scott Piercy and Jim Furyk, a runner-up at Oakmont for the second straight U.S. Open.

''I still didn't want the penalty. I didn't think that I did anything to cause the ball to move,'' Johnson said. ''But at the end of the day, it didn't affect what happened. So it doesn't bother me at all.''

Finally, he's a major champion.

Johnson scooped up 18-month son Tatum into his arms on Father's Day and raised the silver trophy for all to see.

''I've been here a bunch of times and haven't quite got it done,'' Johnson said. ''But today, I did. And it feels really good.''

He saluted a Pittsburgh crowd that was on his side even amid all the uncertainty. The grandstands were raucous, with one fan shouting, ''What's the call, USGA?'' At the trophy presentation, when Fox Sports announcer Joe Buck brought up the penalty situation, the crowd booed.

Johnson finished at 4-under 276, the lowest winning score in nine U.S. Opens at Oakmont.

The lingering question was whether the toughest test in golf was tougher than it needed to be.

Johnson had a short par putt on the fifth hole, took a few practice strokes and as he placed the putter behind the ball, it moved slightly - backward. Johnson stepped back and called over the rules official, told him he didn't cause it to move. He tapped in for par.

Jeff Hall, senior director of rules and open championships for the USGA, said a staff member said on the radio that it might be worth another look. The USGA thought Johnson should know that his score might be one shot worse than it was, so it told him on the 12th tee.

''After looking at video, the actions he took could have caused the ball to move,'' Hall said. ''We asked if there was some other reason the ball could have moved. He didn't state a reason.''

But it led to confusion over the entire back nine - for Johnson and for the guys trying to catch him.

Lowry, who began the final round with a four-shot lead that he lost on the front nine, tied him when Johnson made bogey on the 14th.

Were they tied? Was Johnson trailing by one?

Jack Nicklaus, who won the first of his 18 majors at Oakmont in 1962, said if the USGA thought it might be a one-shot penalty, it should have done it right there and ''let him get on with the job.''

That's what he did, scrambling for pars, keeping his cool, thinking only the major that kept eluding him.

Johnson said he couldn't help but wonder if he was in for more bad luck at a major that he was poised to win.

''Just one more thing to add to the list, right?'' he said.

The most painful was last year in the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, when Johnson had a 12-foot eagle putt to win and three-putted for par to lose by one to Jordan Spieth. There also was that two-shot penalty at Whistling Straits that kept him out of a playoff in the 2010 PGA Championship when Johnson grounded his club in sand without realizing it was a bunker. He was chasing down Darren Clarke in the 2011 British Open when he hit a 2-iron out-of-bounds on the 14th hole. He lost a three-shot lead at Pebble Beach in the 2010 U.S. Open by closing with an 82.

Not this time.

Lowry became the first player since Payne Stewart at Olympic Club in 1998 to lose a four-shot lead in the final round of the U.S. Open. He made birdie after being told of the potential Johnson penalty, but the Irishman lost his putting touch with three-putt bogeys on three straight holes. He closed with a 76.

Lowry and all the other players on the course were informed that Johnson might get penalized after his round.

''It didn't affect the way I played,'' Lowry said. ''If anything, I credit Dustin for playing the way he played on the way in, having that hanging over him, because I probably would have wanted to know straightaway if it was me.''

Dustin Johnson defuses rules controversy

The final round of the U.S. Open was thrown into an almost farcical state of confusion on Sunday over a penalty controversy but Dustin Johnson made it a moot question by rolling to victory by three strokes.

U.S. Golf Association (USGA) officials raised the question at the 12th hole of whether leader Dustin Johnson would or would not be hit with a one-stroke penalty for making his ball move on the fifth green despite a ruling on site that he was not at fault.

With Johnson leading by just one stroke for much of the back nine, the state of the competition was an open question until Johnson stretched his lead to four strokes at the end, crowning his first major victory with a birdie at the 18th.

He later was docked a stroke over the controversial play on the fifth hole, and his official score was amended to 69 for a four-under total of 276, with Americans Jim Furyk and Scott Piercy and Irishman Shane Lowry equal second on one-under.

When the subject of the penalty was raised in an interview at the trophy ceremony, the crowd around the 18th green booed lustily.

"It’s something they said, 'We’re going to look at when you're done'," Johnson said about receiving the notice from a USGA official at the 12th hole.

"So I just tried to focus on what I was doing and not worry about the penalty stroke, and just playing golf from there to the house."

Johnson held firm, while his pursuers wobbled down the stretch and the long-hitting American capped off his first major championship victory with a brilliant approach shot that enabled him to post only the second birdie of the day at the 18th.

"It was a very nice way to finish. Maybe one of the best shots I ever hit, especially under the circumstance," he said about his six-iron approach. "I was very happy to see I had a little three-footer to finish."

Johnson's ball moved ever so slightly on the fifth green as he was preparing to attempt his par putt. He denied having caused the ball to move and the official accompanying the pairing decided not to levy a penalty.

Upon further review of video, officials second-guessed that decision.

"After looking at the video, we have some concerns," Jeff Hall, the USGA's managing director of rules and competitions, explained to FOX TV late in the round. "We put him on notice that, based on what we saw, the actions may lead to a penalty stroke."

Officials also informed the other golfers on the course that Johnson might be penalized.

This left the contenders in the bizarre situation of having to play the final few holes not knowing how they stood in relation to Johnson.

The USGA handling of the situation drew outraged responses from some high profile players via Twitter.

"Amateur hour from @USGA," tweeted Rory McIlroy, saying no penalty was warranted.

Added Jordan Spieth: "This is a joke."

But not to Johnson, who was all business as he finished strong to raise the silver trophy as U.S. Open champion.

Shane Lowry bitterly disappointed with final round

Shane Lowry stood on the 18th green for an awards presentation at the U.S. Open, just how he planned.

It's where Lowry stood, however, that will stick with the affable Irishman for a while. Maybe a long while.

While Dustin Johnson donned the gold medal, held the trophy and got the kiss from the girl after exorcising some very real major championship meltdowns of his own while conquering Oakmont in the final round Sunday, Lowry rubbed his beard and tried to smile through the anguish.

It wasn't easy. Not even close. Up by four when he stepped onto the first tee, Lowry settled for a share of second after a 6-over 76 and a four-round total of 1-under 279, three shots back of the beaming Johnson. The 29-year-old's best finish at a major was little consolation.

''Bitterly disappointed, standing here,'' Lowry said. ''And, you know, it's not easy to get yourself in a position I got myself in today. It was there for the taking and I didn't take it.''

There was no singular moment where things went wrong, just 18 holes of average to mediocre golf when something far better was required. His round included seven bogeys against just one birdie and a string of three-putts on the back nine that gave Johnson all the breathing room he needed despite a one-stroke penalty when the ball moved as he was getting ready to address it on the fifth green.

''I just kept on hitting, you know, OK shots,'' Lowry said. ''It wasn't even great shots, it wasn't even bad shots. Kept hitting it 25, 30, 35 feet. On these greens, it's tricky. Kept leaving myself a lot of work to do.''

Too much, far too much, to keep pace with Johnson. Lowry's struggled played in stark contrast to his near flawless Saturday, when he cruised through 32 holes in 3 under during a marathon day that sent him soaring up the leaderboard. When he finished the third round off early Sunday morning with birdies on the 15th and 17th, he had a four-shot lead and unknown Andrew Landry as his playing partner.

Lowry described his dreamlike tour of Oakmont on Saturday as the most comfortable he's ever felt on a golf course. That comfort disappeared in the late Sunday heat. By the turn he was trailing Johnson by a shot, well aware of how the towering American was doing thanks to the reaction from a solidly pro-Johnson crowd shouting ''USA! USA!'' at nearly every turn.

Still, Lowry was in it and had a wedge in his hands on No. 14 when he failed to get it close. Three putts later the deficit had grown.

''It just kind of spiraled out of control from there,'' Lowry said. ''It was one of those where I'd give anything to have that wide shot on 14 back again.''

It grew another shot several minutes later when his comeback putt on the 15th slid by. The championship slipped out of reach on the 16th, when he couldn't get down in two from 49 feet on the par-3.

''Everything happened quickly,'' Lowry said. ''But, you know, that's the way -- that's what happens when you play a few bad holes. They're kind of over before you know it. You'd like to have them back again.''

By the time Lowry reached the 18th green, the winner's welcome he anticipated felt decidedly anticlimactic. Johnson was already in the scorer's tent signing his card and getting his ultimately inconsequential penalty sorted out while celebrating with wife Paulina.

Lowry endured the closing ceremony gracefully, clasping hands with Johnson and examining the silver medal for joining Scott Piercy and Jim Furyk in the tie for second before going over to give Johnson's fiancee, Paulina Gretzky, a hug.

It's what gentlemen are supposed to do in a gentlemen's game. And Lowry made it a point to praise Johnson's near flawless play on a day when only seven players finished under par.

''He's a deserving champion, he played the best golf,'' Lowry said.

Yet Lowry became the first player since Payne Stewart in 1998 to lose after leading by at least four shots going into the final round. A year later Stewart did come through following a Sunday duel at Pinehurst with Phil Mickelson. It's a fact that may provide solace later, but not now.

Lowry left Oakmont quickly for the airport, where a long flight to Ireland - and a long time to analyze what happened on Sunday - awaits.

''The more I think about it, the more upset I get,'' he said. ''So that's the way golf is.''

Andrew Landry fades on Sunday

Andrew Landry's opening drive rocketed into the right rough alongside the fairway. From there, his first approach shot nosedived into the left rough alongside the green.

Somehow, things went downhill from there.

By the time the final round was over, what began like a story line cribbed from the movie ''Caddyshack'' - ''Cinderella boy about to become the U.S. Open champion!'' - turned into an all-too-familiar, crash-and-burn tale from more than one final round of a major championship.

''I'm taking this as a positive,'' Landry said after signing for a 78. His 285 total was nine shots behind winner Dustin Johnson and left him in a tie for 15th place.

''Obviously, it's my best finish of the year. So I'm taking it as a positive and move on to the following weeks and just continue to prepare,'' he added. ''I've been in this situation, so I'm going to learn from it.''

It turned out to be quite an education. Landry was playing in his first U.S. Open in his first year on the PGA Tour. He came to Oakmont as the 624th-ranked player in the world. His best finish during the brief foray out on Tour was a tie for 41st.

Yet he promptly navigated his way through Thursday's on-again, off-again rain delays and improbably grabbed the overnight lead. Not just that, his 66 was the best number any player had posted in the opening round of a major at the punishing Oakmont Country Club layout.

Here are a few of the names who played here and never matched it: Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan and Sam Snead.

Better still, Landry's father, Dwain, recalled in an interview with ESPN how tough his 28-year-old son was, beginning as a pint-sized competitor at the hardscrabble golf course near their Texas home. Then he recalled a conversation they had just days before Andrew left to play.

''Dad,'' Andrew said, ''I'm going to win this tournament.''

Early Sunday afternoon, it still seemed possible. Landry went off in the final pairing with leader Shane Lowry at 3 under, four strokes from the top of the board and fell out of contention almost immediately. Then he kept falling.

The pressure on the Texan made even the toughest NCAA Tournament rounds, and those on the mini-tours up and down the Americas, seem like fond memories. Five bogeys and a double bogey on the front nine for a 42. Another bogey to start the back nine.

Landry finally showed some of the grit he displayed climbing back into contention in Rounds 2 and 3 - he birdied 17 and 18 both days - by running off eight straight pars to close out the back. He didn't need reminding that it came too late.

''Walking down 18, I was like, man, I wish I could just take a picture of this because it's like the coolest view from a player,'' Landry said.

''It was pretty awesome to watch,'' he added, ''to be there first-hand and be in the moment.''

Danny Willett frustrated by his putting

Danny Willett conquered some of most famous greens in golf to win the Masters, but Oakmont's treacherous putting surfaces pushed him to breaking point in the US Open.

England's Willett was so frustrated with his performance on the greens that he snapped his putter in two late in his third round -- the same putter he used in making his major breakthrough at Augusta National in April.

"Yeah, unfortunately, it's now in two pieces. We'll have to get it refurbed, and then I won't be using it again," Willett said after completing a final-round 71 for a nine-over total of 289.

He was out of the hunt for a second straight major title early on, struggling to adjust as thunderstorms halted Thursday's first round three times.

In addition to the distracting disruptions, the wet weather meant players faced vastly different course conditions than those that prevailed in the practice rounds.

"Just a bad week really on the greens," said Willett, who had to finish out a couple of third-round holes with his a wedge but had another putter available to put in his bag for the final round.

"They're tricky to read, tricky to keep the pace and line the same. Obviously, the starting and stopping on Thursday, Friday, pace changed a little bit ... things just didn't quite go our way."

Willett took 129 putts for the week, starting with 35 in the first round.

He was spiralling down early Sunday with double-bogeys at the third and fifth before five birdies and two bogeys the rest of the way.

"I'm a bit disappointed with the week, but (it) could have been a lot worse," Willett said.

 

Scores

# Nat Selected Others Score Hole Today
1 IRL Shane Lowry -5 14 -3
2 USA Andrew Landry -3 13 -2
3 ENG Lee Westwood -2 15 -1
3 ESP Sergio Garcia -2 14 Par
3 USA Dustin Johnson -2 13 +2
6 RSA Branden Grace -1 18 -4
7 USA Scott Piercy Par 13 +2
8 USA Bryson DeChambeau +1 18 Par
8 AUS Jason Day +1 18 -4
8 USA Zach Johnson +1 17 +1
8 USA Daniel Summerhays +1 14 +2
12 KOR Sung-Hoon Kang +2 18 Par
12 USA Derek Fathauer +2 18 Par
12 USA Kevin Streelman +2 18 -1
12 USA Kevin Na +2 18 -1
12 USA Jason Dufner +2 18 -2
12 USA Daniel Berger +2 18 -1
12 USA Brendan Steele +2 18 Par
12 AUS Adam Scott +2 18 +2
12 FRA Gregory Bourdy +2 14 +4
21 RSA Charl Schwartzel +3 18 -1
30 USA Matt Kuchar +4 18 +1
30 USA Jordan Spieth +4 18 Par
41 USA Bubba Watson +7 18 +2
52 ENG Danny Willett +8 18 +3

 





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