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Johnson looks back only to learn.

The day after the U.S. Open and the day after the PGA Championship were entirely different, for no other reason than Johnson was asking most of the questions after Pebble Beach. Everyone else was doing it for him after Whistling Straits.

“Monday after Pebble, I remember sitting around thinking, ‘I’ve got to get better. I’ve got to figure out a way to get it done in that situation.’ Obviously, I did that. I proved that Sunday,” Johnson said. “The experience at Pebble helped me so much on Sunday. I knew what to expect. I knew I would make mistakes because it’s going to happen. I knew I would still have plenty of holes to play.”

And what was he thinking about Monday after the PGA?

“The first thing is what happened on 18,” he said. “Then after that, I got to thinking about everything good that came out of that. I did play very well coming down the stretch, and I’m proud of that.”

What should not be forgotten is how he arrived at the 18th tee with a one-shot lead.

Johnson was three shots behind with six holes to play. He didn’t panic when birdie putts inside 10 feet hit the lip on the 14th and 15th holes. Then came a blind shot from far below the 16th green. In grass that covered his shoes, Johnson hit a sand wedge to 2 feet for birdie to tie for the lead, then followed with a 6-iron to 12 feet for birdie on the 17th.

The last he saw of his tee shot on the 18th, it was headed into the gallery.

The bunkers at Whistling Straits will be debated until the PGA Championship returns in 2015. What gets misinterpreted is the notion that Johnson could have avoided this mess if he had only read the rule sheet posted in the locker room all week.


It’s a safe bet that 75 percent of the field never read the sheet and still knew the rule.

Johnson said he knew without reading that every bunker at Whistling Straits was a hazard. If he had memorized the local rule the way school kids memorize the Pledge of Allegiance, he would have played it the same way.

“Rules are rules,” he said. “Obviously, I know the rules very well. I just never thought I was in a bunker, or I would have never grounded my club. Maybe walking up to the ball, if all those people hadn’t been there, maybe I would have recognized it as a sand trap. I knew there wasn’t any waste bunkers. But all the bunkers on the course had a darkish color to the sand. This was white dirt.”

It looked to him as if it had been covered in grass before being trampled by thousands of fans during the week.

None of that matters now.

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