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Johnson’s trouble began when he thinned his approach in the second fairway and his ball came to rest in an awkward lie in deep grass near a bunker. Forced to hit out left-handed, the ball barely made it out. He practically whiffed his fourth shot and wound up missing a 3-foot putt for double bogey.

“Instead of maybe trying to just save bogey, I was trying to get it up and down and ended up making triple,” he said. Then, in the same breath, he insisted: “There’s nothing I really could’ve done differently.”

From there, he used driver on the third tee when 3-wood might have worked and used 3-wood on the short, par-4 fourth hole when most players were hitting irons. The shot on 3 got lost and the shot on 4 wound up in the ocean.

That led to a double-bogey and a bogey and put him on a short list nobody wants any part of. His 82 was the worst final round by a 54-hole leader in 99 years.

Yet while the golf world was analyzing it, Johnson was sleeping easy.

“I’m pretty sure I was done with it by Monday morning when I woke up,” he said. “There was really nothing bad I could take from it other than it was definitely a learning curve. I definitely learned a lot from that round.”

Losses like that have been known to drag a player into yearlong slumps. Johnson kept plugging along.

He brought what he’d learned at Pebble Beach with him to the next major in America, the PGA at Whistling Straits. Playing in the final group that time, he slowed things down, kept his cool. He could’ve been in a playoff, but was penalized two strokes after infamously grounding his club in a trampled area that also happened to be a bunker.

He’ll never make that mistake again. Some lessons, though, he had already learned.

“Everybody remembers the 18th hole,” he said, “but they forget about I birdied 16 and 17 to get a one shot lead going into 18.”

Even after that, Johnson won the BMW Championship, the third of the four PGA Tour playoff events. He finished fourth on the PGA Tour money list and he’s been playing well this year, with a pair of top-3 finishes.

What he really needs now at one of these big tournaments is to perfect the closing act.

“Last year I had a chance to win,” he said, “and hopefully I’ll have one again this year.”