Most of us remember the iconic opening of ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.”
You know, the one with Jim McKay describing “the joy of victory and the agony of defeat” as a ski jumper wipes out.
If “Wide World of Sports” was still on, they might have to replace that ski jumper with professional golfer Dustin Johnson after what unfolded on the final hole of the U.S. Open on Sunday afternoon.
Some thought that it couldn’t get any worse for Johnson after he missed out on a playoff at the 2010 PGA Championship when he received a two-stroke penalty on the final hole for grounding his club in a bunker.
But on Sunday at Chambers Bay in University Place, Washington, Johnson’s heartbreak in major championships reached an entirely new level.
Young star Jordan Spieth seemingly gave Johnson the title on a silver platter after an inexplicable double-bogey on the 17th hole, followed by a missed eagle putt on the 18th that left him with a tenuous one-stroke lead as he signed his scorecard.
Johnson, playing in the final group of the day, seemed to seize the title with a brilliant approach shot to the 18th green that left him with a 12-foot eagle putt for the win. It seemed that at very worst, Johnson would two-putt for a birdie and he and Spieth would play an 18-hole playoff on Monday.
Instead, Johnson’s eagle putt rolled past the hole. His birdie putt was shockingly off-target from short distance, continuing the putting woes that plagued him for much of the back nine. Rather than raising the trophy or teeing off Monday morning, Johnson was left to ponder the latest addition to his legacy as one of the best players never to win a major championship as Spieth celebrated his second major victory in just over two months — both before reaching the age of 22.
It isn’t like Johnson hasn’t had his chances.
In 2010, he led the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by three strokes entering the final round, only to shoot an 82 and plummet to eighth place. He was within one stroke of the lead with five holes to play at the 2011 British Open at Royal St. George’s, but double-bogeyed the par-5 14th hole and wound up finishing second.
When you look at the other tournaments Johnson has won in his career, it is shocking that he hasn’t won a major yet. He’s won two FedEx Cup playoff events; he won the prestigious Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in back-to-back years, including in 2010 mere months before his final-round meltdown at the U.S. Open; and he has won two World Golf Championship events.
But you get the feeling it is only a matter of time before Johnson finally breaks through. And when he does, it will only open the floodgates.
Remember when Phil Mickelson was known as the best player never to win a major? After all, he did finish in the top 10 at The Masters five years in a row before finally winning his first green jacket in 2004 after 17 top-10 finishes at the majors. He then proceeded to win the 2005 PGA Championship, Masters titles in 2006 and 2010 and the British Open in 2013.
His lone blemish? The U.S. Open, where he’s finished second a record six times. So there is no shame in being humbled by our national championship.
Someday, Johnson will get to savor the joy of victory on one of golf’s biggest stages, rather than the agony of defeat.
Darren Vaughan is a veteran sports writer from Moab, Utah. He, too, has missed a putt with something on the line — that windmill cost him five bucks. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.