It was a performance the golf world should have seen coming.
Dustin Johnson is the world’s No. 1 player. He traveled to Augusta this week as the most consistent player on the planet, yet there was still doubt. Doubt as to whether he could handle the pressure that comes with trying to win the Masters. Questions about whether he could take a 54-hole lead at a major and turn it into a green jacket.
Well Sunday, Dustin Johnson answered all of those questions and conquered some serious demons in the process. Johnson’s 20-under-par performance was an example of strategic dominance. A game plan created with the stakes in mind and executed to perfection.
Dustin Johnson is the 2020 Masters champion and a historic one at that. Johnson played himself into the Augusta record books by setting the all-time scoring mark at 268 (-20). Two strokes better than the previous record held by Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth.
In the end, it was a runaway, as dominant a showing we’ve seen at Augusta National since Tiger Wood’s masterpiece in 1997. Johnson turned a four-shot 54-hole lead into at five-stroke victory over Cameron Smith and Sungjae Im. In doing so he overcame the misfortune of 54-hole leads of the past. The 2010 U.S. Open? Gone. The 2015 and 2018 U.S. Opens? Forgotten. The 2020 PGA? Insignificant. Dustin Johnson overcame major championship heartbreak to win on the game’s grandest stage. That green jacket should fit perfectly
Here’s a few key takeaways from the final round of the Masters:
DJ’s Game Plan
The game plan may have been a bit foreign to Dustin Johnson, but it was exactly what the moment called for. For three straight days, Johnson was in attack mode at Augusta, combining a massive driver with a steady putter.
With the weight of a four-stroke lead on his shoulders, D.J. chose a calculated approach to his final round, and it paid off. Conservative early, Johnson hit just one of his first four fairways and appeared to be a bit tentative on the greens. But it was all part of the plan. Attack when necessary.
“Obviously starting today with a four-shot lead, I knew it wasn't going to be easy. I knew I was going to have to play well if I wanted to win,” Johnson said during his post-round press conference.
“I thought I got off to a pretty good start, even bogeying the par 5, I didn't let it bother me. "Then I hit a great shot into 6. Made a birdie. That kind of helped the nerves a little bit. From there on out, I felt like I played really solid.”
After making the turn at one under on the day, Johnson put his foot on the gas and went into attack mode. Birdies at 13, 14 and 15 were D.J.’s walk-off moment and he ran away from the field.
It was a performance respected by those who chased him for four straight days.
“He's an amazing athlete," Tiger Woods said following his final round of 76.
“He's one of the first guys to ever bring athleticism to our sport. D.J. has an amazing ability to stay calm in tough moments. We all know as past champions how hard it is and the emotions we have to deal with out there. There's no one more suited to that, than D.J.”
Tiger Woods's 2019 Masters will forever be remembered as one of the greatest comebacks in all of sport. Unfortunately, his 2020 title defense will be remembered for an epic meltdown on Augusta's most iconic hole—the same 12th hole where he seized control of the tournament 19 months ago.
It began with a tee shot into Rae’s Creek, and was followed by two more balls into the water, and two putts adding up to an unthinkable 10. It was Tiger’s highest single-hole score ever in a major championship and plummeted him seven shots down the leaderboard.
“I just didn’t commit," Woods said after the round, still able to smile despite the disaster on 12.
“I also got ahead of it and pushed it because I thought the wind would come more off the right and it was off the left. That just started the problems from there. I hit a lot more shots and had a lot more experience there in Rae’s Creek.”
Amazingly, Tiger righted the ship, almost immediately. Woods walked off the 12th green and went on to birdie five of his final six holes, rallying to finish tied for 38th.
“This sport is awfully lonely sometimes,” said Tiger, who finished 19 shots behind Johnson.
“No one is going to bring you off the mound or call in a sub. You have to fight through it. That's what makes this game so unique and so difficult mentally. We've all been there. Unfortunately, I've been there, and you just have to turn around and figure out the next shot, and I was able to do that coming home.”
McIlroy’s Grand Slam Quest Waits Another Year
Despite an impressive 54-hole stretch Friday through Sunday, Rory McIlroy’s quest to complete the career grand slam will have to wait until April.
McIlroy needn’t look any further than Thursday for the cause of his T-5 finish. An opening-round 75 put McIlroy in a hole he simply couldn’t dig out of. His final three days of golf were sparkling, tallying just two bogeys over his final 54-hole stretch, a string of golf he played at 14 under par.
Even though he began Sunday eight shots back of Johnson, there was a moment during the final round when McIlroy thought he could catch him.
“When I birdied the 8th hole and I got to 11 under, I saw D.J. had dropped to 15 under, and I thought, maybe there's a chance,” McIlroy said following his final-round 69.
“But then the wind sort of got up as we hit the turn, and it just was hard to make birdies. Dustin was just playing such solid golf. It was probably wishful thinking on my part, but I hung in there until the end and tried and put up another score in the 60s in pretty tricky conditions.”
McIlroy is now 0–6 in his attempt at a Masters title. He says he plans on bringing an aggressive yet laid back approach to Augusta in April to try and complete the career grand slam.
It looks like he may have learned something from Johnson in defeat.