Not cool: Snowman on 1st hole ruins Dustin Johnson’s chances
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. (AP) No one knows better than Dustin Johnson how one disastrous hole at Whistling Straits can ruin a final round in a PGA Championship.
In 2010, it was No. 18. On Sunday, it was No. 1.
Johnson had a quadruple-bogey 8 on that first hole, spoiling his chances of challenging barely 10 minutes after getting to the tee box.
Even two eagles on the back nine, where he shot a 5-under 31, couldn’t resuscitate Johnson’s chances. He finished with a 3-under 69 to tie for seventh at 12 under, eight strokes behind winner Jason Day.
”Obviously, a little disappointed to get off to that kind of start,” Johnson said. ”But that kind of comeback … was key, I think.”
In 2010, Johnson took a two-stroke penalty on 18 after grounding his club into a bunker way right off the fairway. It dropped him out of the lead and out of a chance to take part in a playoff won by Martin Kaymer.
The stakes weren’t as high this year – Johnson was six shots back of Day when the fourth round began.
Still, there was nothing cool at the first hole after Johnson’s ”snowman.”
The tee shot landed in a bunker and his second shot sailed into rough.
It only got worse:
-Third shot: 15 feet into a bunker, 51 feet from the pin.
-Fourth shot: 22 feet into rough, 29 feet from the pin.
The back-breaker was the next shot, an errant chip that didn’t make it up to the green and caromed 4 feet back into a bunker.
The sixth shot finally bounced on to the green and left Johnson 20 feet from the pin. He two-putted from there.
Johnson made up ground the rest of the round. A 51-foot putt on the par-5 11th for an eagle finally erased the four shots he lost on the first tee to put him below par for good for the round.
”But what a comeback today. I played really well from then on into the house. Definitely proud about that,” he said.
MOUND OF TROUBLE: An errant tee shot on No. 5 left Bubba Watson feeling a bit antsy.
Watson got into an animated discussion with a rules official about whether he could take a free drop after the ball landed on an anthill.
The official consulted a colleague over a radio before delivering an answer.
”It’s not fire ants or anything, so there’s no relief on them. It’s basically just a loose impediment,” the official said.
Watson followed up.
”Since the animal – it is an animal, right? You agree with that?” he asked while the two men bent over to look down at the little insects.
”It’s burrowing. It’s digging a hole,” Watson continued.
Not so, the official said.
Walking back to his bag, Watson asked, ”So if some guy was allergic to ants, and he got an ant on him, you could care less?”
The official shook his head slowly side-to-side and finished by saying, ”It’s only the dangerous ants, the biting ants.”
Watson got to the green in two shots and made a 4-foot putt for a birdie. He shot a 68 to tie for 21st at 7 under.
WISCONSIN’S OWN: Steve Stricker appreciated the warm reception from his home-state fans at Whistling Straits.
It’s unclear the 48-year-old Stricker will play in a major again in Wisconsin, or at all, for that matter.
”Walking up there, that was pretty special when I was getting that standing ovation there, and I took a moment there, for sure,” said Stricker, among the most respected players on the tour.
Stricker, from Madison, closed with a 70 to tie for 30th at 4 under. That’s progress, for Stricker, who had back surgery last December.
Playing a limited schedule, Stricker struggled with his putting this year before switching to a new putter for the PGA Championship. He said his game is getting close to where ”to being right where it’s been.”
The next major in Wisconsin will be the U.S. Open at Erin Hills in 2017.
”Obviously, I’m not going to give up trying … but, I don’t know, it could be my last,” Stricker said about this year’s PGA. ”But like I said say, I’m going to continue to try to get in them.”
BACK TO WORK: One more day off for Brian Gaffney and then it’s back to work on Tuesday at the Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, New York.
But boy, does Gaffney have a good excuse for missing time.
The only club pro to play all four rounds at Whistling Straits, Gaffney shot a 71 on Sunday to finish 71st at 5 over.
”But I’ve got an awesome staff back home and they cover for me,” Gaffney said. ”So, thank you, guys, for taking care of me.”
DIVOTS: Day became the fifth Australian to win the PGA Championship, joining Steve Elkington (1995), Wayne Grady (1990), David Graham (1979) and Jim Ferrier (1947). … Brooks Koepka and David Lingmerth had the lowest scores of the fourth round at 6-under 66. … Phil Mickelson had a 69 to tie for 18th at 8 under. He was paired in the fourth round with Hiroshi Iwata, who finished at 7 under after a 71. Iwata shot 63 on Friday, matching the lowest round ever in a major.