No one thought Johnson would have a problem recovering from this latest disappointment.
“He’s one of the most resilient players I’ve ever seen,” said his coach, Butch Harmon. “He’ll be back. He just made one bad swing with a 2-iron that cost him a chance to win.”
Fellow American Rickie Fowler tried to express a similar sentiment but may have given some insight into why Johnson keeps making inexplicable mistakes.
“Dustin really doesn’t think about a whole lot,” said Fowler, who also struggled to a 72 in the final round. “I don’t think he’s going to be too worried about it. He’s someone that gets over things pretty quickly. He’s a great player. I love the way he plays the game. He can hit the ball a long ways,and I wouldn’t worry about Dustin. He’ll be fine.
There were plenty of Americans on the leaderboard, but none of them could chase down Clarke.
Mickelson made the most impressive charge, playing the first 10 holes at 6 under and briefly pulling into a tie for the lead with an eagle at the seventh. But Lefty’s putter suddenly went cold and he staggered to the end with four bogeys, winding up tied with Johnson at 2-under 278 after shooting a 68 that could’ve been so much better.
Fowler, Chad Campbell and Anthony Kim tied for sixth, five shots off the pace, giving the U.S. five of the top seven finishers.
None of them occupied the only spot that really matters, extending an American drought that already was the longest in the modern Grand Slam era to six in a row.
Mickelson began to fade after missing a 2-footer at the 11th. Johnson, who had struggled to a 1-over 36 on the front side, finally got a couple of birdie putts to drop at the 10th and 12th, re-emerging as Clarke’s main challenger.
Two holes later, Johnson tried to pull off a little low draw with his 2-iron. He envisioned the ball curling right up next to the flag, which surely would’ve given him a shot at the birdie he needed to get within a stroke of Clarke.
Instead, the ball went right and disappeared into the thick, tall grass.
“I had a great week,” he said. “I came down with a little bit of illness, wasn’t feeling that well, so I didn’t know what to expect. I fought all week, and I didn’t have my best stuff this week for sure. But I hung in there and just fought around, and I think I did very well.”
Maybe next time, he’ll finish it the right way.