- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 17, 2010

SHEBOYGAN, WIS. (AP) - On the day after a nightmare-inducing end to the PGA Championship, Dustin Johnson was on his boat off the coast of South Carolina, about as far from a bunker as he could possibly be.

“Just kickin’ it,” Johnson said.

In his vernacular, that meant throwing down cold beers and relaxing with his friends, not kicking himself for a two-stroke penalty in a bunker that became the defining moment at Whistling Straits and cost Johnson a chance in another major.

Monday was filled with phone calls and text messages _ Phil Mickelson, Camilo Villegas and Butch Harmon among them _ to offer support and praise for the way Johnson handled such a kick in the gut.

He went from standing over a par putt to win his first major to erasing the 5 on his card and changing it to a 7.

Whether he should have been penalized two shots for touching the sand with his 4-iron on the 18th hole is not up for debate. Johnson knows the rules, which is why he didn’t even bother asking for a television replay. His mistake was not knowing he was in a bunker.

It’s a safe bet all those fans didn’t know they were standing in a bunker, either.

What should not be lost in the circus of Sunday is what the future holds for the 26-year-old American.

Johnson played in the final group of two majors this year, and that was no accident. Over the last decade, only three other players have been in the last group of a major twice in the same year without winning _ Ernie Els (2004), Phil Mickelson (2001) and David Duval (2000). That’s pretty stout company.

“He could have won two majors this year,” said Butch Harmon, who began working with Johnson in May. “As I told him in my text, ‘You proved to the golf world that you’re one of the best players in the world, not just another good player.’”

Few other players are tested between the ears as much as they are inside the ropes. Harmon is not the least bit worried about how Johnson will recover from this, nor should anyone else be.

“Look how he’s moved on from Pebble,” Harmon said. “He’s very resilient. He has an incredible demeanor to handle these things.”

Two months ago, Johnson had a three-shot lead going into the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He threw it all away with a triple bogey on the second hole, then dropped more shots trying too quickly to atone for his mistakes. He wound up with an 82, then faced questions the next two months about how long it took him to get over such a collapse.

Apparently, “one day” wasn’t the answer anyone wanted.

“It doesn’t bother me if people ask,” Johnson said. “I just don’t get why somebody wouldn’t believe me when I say I’m over it. You have to go forward. In every sport, you have to go forward.”

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