What’s stopping Dustin Johnson and Jason Day from winning majors?
Another major championship is in the books, and underdog Zach Johnson played unbelievable golf over the final round and earned the right to put his name on the Claret Jug for his second major victory.
The heavy favorite, of course, was Jordan Spieth, who was coming off winning the Masters and U.S. Open. As a pessimist who knows how hard golf is, I had my doubts that winning a Grand Slam was possible. It’s never happened, nor will it ever. No way will anyone win all four majors in one calendar year. There’s just too much competition and too much pressure.
But as big a story as Zach’s win and Jordan’s run at a third straight major was, nothing was as intriguing as Dustin Johnson’s weekend collapse and the putt Jason Day left short on the final green. In my mind these guys were the two clear favorites to win the whole thing, but it wasn’t meant to be … again.
I keep asking myself: How many close calls can these two great golfers have before winning a first major? Why can’t they close the deal in their biggest events? What do they need to change in order to get the job done? And did I leave the oven on?
There are two reasons a golfer who clearly has the talent and opportunity to win several majors can’t pull it off when the chips are down. Either he doesn’t want it badly enough, or he wants it too badly. Yes, that sounds confusing, so I’ll do my best to explain.
In my mind, Dustin may not want to be a major champion badly enough. Yes, he has made tens of millions of dollars in golf and has nine wins on the PGA tour, but his off-course life seems a little crazy for someone who wants to win at the highest level of his sport. We all know of the two alleged drug suspensions from the Tour, but he has lost two majors by simply not paying attention.
In the 2010 PGA Championship, he grounded his club in a bunker after the field was routinely warned that any sand on the course was a hazard. He lost the 2015 U.S. Open by three-putting the final hole from 12 feet. (And don’t think about blaming the Chambers Bay greens. The fact they were bumpy means Dustin should have known not to run his first putt 4 feet past the hole. Especially after he saw Jason Day hit a similar putt a minute earlier.) Both times he walked off the green as if he had just finished a round at his home course with his buddies. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger in “The Terminator,” he showed no regret or emotion. That’s not the reaction of someone who just blew a championship he wants to win more than anything.
Then there’s Day, who appeared near death as he battled vertigo over the final two rounds of the U.S. Open. He bravely finished the event after his doctors said he shouldn’t. It seemed like he didn’t care about his well-being as much as winning the tournament. I choked up watching him finish his third round, and I stood by the green and clapped for a minute straight after he finished his final round.
I have never seen that kind of desire and absolute bravery anywhere, let alone on a golf course. Most of us, me included, can’t understand putting our health on the line just to have a chance to put our name on a golf trophy, but Jason Day does. A couple days ago, I saw him cry after he left his birdie putt short on the 72nd hole at St. Andrews. Making that putt wouldn’t have guaranteed him the Claret Jug, just a chance at a playoff. He wants to win a major championship that badly.
Of course, I can tell Dustin to focus more or Jason to be more patient, but actually I don’t really know what is in the minds and hearts of these two great players. If I did, maybe I would still be on the PGA Tour. It’s all just an educated guess based on what I have observed over a lifetime of playing competitive golf. The truth is, they are far better golfers than I ever was, and I’m in awe of their ability. But what I do know for an absolute fact is that Dustin and Jason need to win a major sooner than later, or they run the risk of developing the “I can’t win the big one” attitude. And that’s not a good thought to have floating in your head. Trust me.
All that aside, if I had to bet I really believe both of these players will win multiple majors before their careers are over. They are just too good not to.