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Kaymer went on to beat Watson, while Johnson is forever linked to one of the greatest mental blunders or all-time rip jobs, depending on your point of view. He had to take the penalty for grounding his club in a patch of dirt that only vaguely resembled a bunker.

Johnson still isn’t sure that’s what it was.

“It was only about this big around,” he said Wednesday, holding out his arms in the shape of a small circle. “There was grass and beer cans and cups in there. It had no definition at all.”

It qualified as a bunker under local rules, which Johnson didn’t bother to read. So, he dutifully erased the number on his card and wrote in one that was two strokes higher.

Kaymer comes in as the defending champion, playing in an afternoon group that included two other former PGA winners, Y.E. Yang and Shaun Micheel.

Johnson is still chasing his first big win, but he’s never really griped about the cards he was dealt.

Heck, he still blames himself for driving the ball so far right that he wound up in a bunker that didn’t look like one. He had a one-stroke lead, his breakthrough win just a par away. He knows he should’ve been more conservative off the tee, done what it took to stay in the fairway.

“I never should’ve hit it over there,” Johnson said.

In defeat, Johnson earned plenty of respect for the way he stoically handled the penalty.

“I don’t ever get too angry or too mad, especially when it was my fault,” Johnson said. “Still, the more times I look at it, the more I think it’s not even a bunker. But things happen. Rules are rules. I broke one, and I got a penalty.”

Coming off a three-month layoff, Woods had a ragged return last week at Firestone, finishing 18 strokes behind winner Adam Scott. Rubbing salt in the wound, Scott’s caddie was Steve Williams, who was recently fired by Woods after a long partnership.

Williams was giddy over Scott’s victory, calling it the greatest of his career _ even when taking into account the 13 majors titles he was part of while on Woods‘ bag. The caddie said he had remained loyal to Woods through all his problems, only to get dumped for no apparent reason.

Woods said he sent Williams “a nice text” congratulating him on the victory, and was surprised at the way he lashed out to the media. There are no regrets about the decision to fire his longtime caddie.

“Sometimes we all need changes,” Woods said. “I was at peace with it. It was a decision and a direction I wanted to go, and that’s it.”

While Woods has slipped to 30th in the world rankings and looked far too erratic at Firestone to have any real chance in the final major of the year, given Atlanta’s tight fairways, plentiful water and daunting length, his expectations haven’t changed a bit from the glory days.

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