- Associated Press - Sunday, July 17, 2011

SANDWICH, England — Dustin Johnson was right in the mix again, playing in the final group at a major championship, just two strokes off the lead as he stood over his ball in the 14th fairway.

He surveyed the green up ahead and reached into his bag for a 2-iron, knowing he needed at least a birdie on the par-5 hole to put some heat on Darren Clarke.

“It was definitely a go situation,” Johnson would say later. “It was pretty much dead in, so it wasn’t all that difficult.”

Clearly, this 27-year-old American doesn’t lack for bravado.

But one of these days, he’ll have to quit making huge blunders at the most inopportune times.

On Sunday, Johnson sent the ball sailing out of bounds, leading to a double bogey that turned the final four holes into nothing more than a victory lap for Clarke. The Northern Irishman coasted to his first major title by three strokes.

Johnson’s breakthrough will have to wait a little longer.

“If I had to do it over again,” he said, “I’d hit a 3-wood instead of a 2-iron.”

But the pros can’t take mulligans. Johnson must live with the final round of last year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where he threw away a three-stroke lead with a brutal 82. He must live with missing out on a playoff at last year’s PGA Championship, where he didn’t bother to read the rules about all those obscure bunkers at Whistling Straits and took a two-stroke penalty for grounding his club on the 72nd hole.

And, now, he’ll have to live with picking the wrong club and hitting a brutal shot, ruining any hope of snatching away the claret jug on a wet, windy day at Royal St. George’s.

“It was brutal out there,” said Johnson, who limped in with a 2-over 72 that left tied for the runner-up spot with Phil Mickelson. “I think I held up pretty well. I hung in there all day, made some birdies on the back to get back in there and just unfortunately made the double-bogey on 14, which really just took all my momentum out.”

Indeed, Johnson showed plenty of resilience on a week that started quite poorly. He came down with a mysterious infection, his glands swollen up the size of grapes during the opening round. He played the first 12 holes Thursday at 4 over, looking as though he might be headed home before the weekend.

Johnson got himself going with a hole-in-one, posted two straight rounds in the 60s and earned a spot in the final group of a major for the third time.

Now, he’s just got to finish one.

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