Pebble meltdown doesn’t haunt Johnson

BETHESDA, MD. (AP) - Maybe the oddest thing about the meltdown that cost Dustin Johnsonthe U.S. Open last year is how much of it he wouldn’t change.

He thought he made good decisions.

He said he never got mad or frustrated.

He claims he didn’t get lost in the moment _ or too caught up in what it would feel like to win.

Only thing he’d do differently, besides change the result: “I really got fast, especially after making 7 there,” he said. “I really got fast with everything. I started walking a little faster, swinging faster, just going through my routine faster.”

Going every bit as fast that early afternoon at Pebble Beach were his chances.

His triple bogey on No. 2 triggered a stretch of three cringe-inducing holes played at 6-over par. It scrubbed out the three-shot lead he took into the final round and made the rest of his day academic. He shot 82. That, combined with his confusion in the bunker at the PGA Championship later in the season, made Johnson 0 for 2 in majors that he shoulda, coulda won in 2010 but didn’t.

“I learned a lot about myself, though,” he said.

On Thursday at Congressional Country Club, Johnson will tee it up again at the tournament he led after three rounds last year. He’ll almost certainly have more eyes on him this time around.

Last year, he was considered an up-and-comer, someone to watch because he’d won the regular tour stop at Pebble Beach in 2009 and 2010.

By putting himself in contention in two majors, the 26-year-old South Carolina native is justifying the high expectations. His final-round letdown also put him in some pretty good company. In the past year, Johnson, Nick Watney and Rory McIlroy _ none over the age of 30 _ have all taken multiple-shot leads into Sunday at a major. None managed to break 80 in the fourth round.

“Most of the guys out here, especially a lot of good players, they’ve all gone through the same thing,” Johnson said. “They’ve all done it. It’s a learning process that I think everybody is going to go through at least once in their career. So you can’t look at it as a bad thing.”

When it was Johnson at the U.S. Open, though, it was hard not to imagine it could be a done deal. He had history at Pebble Beach and was one of only three people to play the first three rounds under par. He wasn’t showing any signs of weakening and, in fact, finished with back-to-back birdies to shoot 66 on Saturday, matching Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods for the best round of the tournament.

Another part of it, though, was that this was the U.S. Open, the toughest test in golf, a grinder of a tournament and the least likely of the majors to produce big, sudden swings on the leaderboard.

Make that swings up the leaderboard.

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