New Masters champion Dustin Johnson smashed the Augusta National scoring record yesterday to ensure he will no longer be best remembered for his misses.
The world No.1, who had failed to close the deal after leading four Majors after the third round, finished on 20-under par after an unforgettable display of stunning golf.
His fiancee Paulina Gretzky was their to cheer him on and congratulate him after he sank his final putt.
After Johnson left the PGA Tour in 2014 following a failed drug test, her father Wayne Gretzky said he “never thought he’d ever meet someone as dumb as his daughter until he met Dustin”.
But on Sunday the 2016 US Open champion displayed his high golfing IQ – and his battle-hardened nerve – to finally win his second Major and prove he is the best player in the world.
Johnson, born just over the state border in South Carolina, walks and talks slower than a summer’s day in the Deep South. But November in Augusta, with Georgia softened in the rain, proved to be his time. It was delayed gratification for Johnson and all golf fans.
Joint runner-up Cameron Smith became the first player in Masters history to shoot all four rounds in the 60s but still finished five shots back along with Jungjai Im.
Johnson, who spent 11 days in isolation last month after contracting Covid last month, was out on his own. The only only shame was no crowd to witness one of the tournament’s greatest ever performances.
DJ, who closed with a 68, said: “It is an incredible feeling. I have played unbelievable golf all week. The conditions of the course definitely helped the scoring a little bit but I still played really well today. To have the scoring record is a great honour.”
And Johnson saved special words for his brother and caddie Austin – and Paulina. “It is an unbelievable feeling to experience all this with my brother. Having Paulina there too today was awesome. I will remember this day for the rest of my life.
He is the first world No.1 to win at Augusta since Tiger Woods in 2002 a year after finishing a shot behind the 15-time Major winner.
Woods, who presented him with the Green Jacket yesterday, said: “DJ has just an amazing ability to stay calm in tough moments.”
The winner of 23 PGA titles was the form player on the PGA Tour after five top-two finishes in his last six events.
But even with a four-shot lead going into the final day, past history always threatened to return and haunt him.
The lowlights of his Major meltdowns were shooting an 82 after taking a three-shot lead into the final round of the 2010 US Open and three-putting the final green at the 2015 US Open to lose by one.
Yet he backed up Woods’ words yesterday when his four-shot lead was soon cut in half by Aussie Cam Smith. Bogeys at four and five saw South Korea Im close within one before Johnson then showed his class and experience.
His tee shot at the par-3 6th arrowed to seven feet for a huge birdie as Im missed his four-foot par putt. His young chasers never got close again.
After fist-pumping a crucial par putt at 11, Johnson kickstarted a hat-trick of birdies by wisely laying up on the 13th and wedging to 13 feet to draw level with the previous scoring record of 18-under held by Woods and Jordan Spieth before parring his way home.
“I was nervous all day – I could feel it,” Johnson said. “I was just very proud of the way I handled myself and the way I finished off the golf tournament.”
Pre-tournament favourite Bryson DeChambeau had aimed to play Augusta National in 20-under but had to settle for two-under in tied 34th after his closing 73. The US Open champion, who has been suffering from “dizziness”, said: “I’ve got to fix whatever is going on up here.”