The word on the street – and by “on the street,” we mean “around the golf course” – is that Dustin Johnson is not well-liked on the PGA Tour. What does this mean? It means that despite what they said on Twitter, many golfers were happy that Johnson choked away the U.S. Open on Sunday, three-putting from 12 feet to lose to Jordan Spieth.
What do we make of this? Is Johnson actually disliked on tour?
“Well, I think there’s a lot of guys who, No. 1, respect Dustin Johnson,” Golfweek senior magazine writer David Dusek said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “And you’re right. I hate to use the word ‘choke’ around athletes. I was a college tennis player. I lost all over the world when I was playing tennis, so one of the things I never say to a guy is that he choked. But Dustin Johnson choked when he missed that four-footer (that would have forced) a playoff. I thought for sure we were going to be having a playoff.
“As far as where his standing is in the locker room, I think a lot of guys respect him.” Dusek reiterated. “He’s got some guys who he’s buddies with. He’s part of the Butch Harmon mafia up there. He’s always playing in games with Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker and Phil Mickelson, and he wins a lot of his fair share. But I don’t know how much they love hanging out with him. He’s (engaged) to Paulina Gretzky, they had a kid, they’re getting married, and he sort of just does his own thing.
“At the end of the day, when I look at Dustin Johnson, there’s so much to like about his game. There’s so many great things. There isn’t a single golf shot that he’s not capable of hitting, and he can hit a lot of the golf shots that others cannot hit. But the mental part of the game is the weakest part of his game – and in championships, where it really matters the most, that’s where it comes out. The guy has blown four majors. So the rap on him from now on is you’ve got to prove it.
“There’s not going to be the fear coming down the stretch on a Sunday in a major championship that Dustin Johnson is going to come from behind and catch you or that when the chips are down he’s going to hold his game together. He has shown four times now that he will implode on you. If you, as Jordan Spieth did, just wait him out and be patient, he’ll crack for you.”
Johnson is now being compared to Greg Norman, who finished runner-up at seven majors. The only difference is, Norman actually won two – the Open Championship in 1986 and 1993.
Until Johnson gets the monkey off his back, the choking reputation is going to follow him.
“Phil Mickelson had it on his back for a long time, too, until he finally wins the 2004 Masters and then everything sort of fell into place for him,” Dusek said. “He wins three Masters. He wins the British Open. He wins a PGA Championship. As far as Greg Norman, the one thing I’ll say about (that) comparison – yeah, the guy imploded and he lost his fair share. He won a couple of majors, too. Greg Norman, though, would have showed up for the awards ceremony. Dustin Johnson, I get it. The guy was exposed. He was humiliated. He was embarrassed. I’m sure (he just) wanted to get the hell out of Chambers Bay as fast as his private jet could take him. But he needed to be out there. He should have been out there. Phil Mickelson has had his guts ripped out in front of everybody (and still went to awards ceremonies). Dustin Johnson was a no-show for that. I got to knock him a little bit. I get that he’s emotional. He wanted to win. But you got to suck it up and be out there.”