AUGUSTA (AFP) – Dustin Johnson proved to himself he can hold a last-day lead to win a major, taking the Masters title he most desired. And the world number one is just getting started.
Johnson delivered an impressive closing Sunday at Augusta National to win in record fashion, handling the tension to set a Masters 72-hole record of 20-under 268 with a final-round 68 for a five-stroke triumph.
“Growing up so close to here, since I played my first Masters, it’s been the tournament I wanted to win the most,” he said. “This one was just something that I really wanted to do.”
After going winless in four majors with a lead entering the last round, the kid who grew up an hour’s drive away now wears a 42-long green jacket.
“I proved I can get it done on Sunday with the lead at a major, especially in tough conditions,” Johnson said.
“I proved to myself that I do have it. There was doubts in my mind, just because I had been there. I’m in this position a lot of times. Like when am I going to have the lead and finish off a major? It definitely proved I can do it.”
Johnson, whose only other major title came at the 2016 US Open, sees the door open for more major success after his Masters breakthrough.
“I dream of winning a lot of majors. Just hadn’t quite happened yet,” he said. “Hopefully this one will help, though, give me a little spring.
“The first major’s the hardest, but then I would say the second one is just as hard. They’re all difficult to win. It’s just hard to get it done in a major for some reason.
“So it’s very nice to have a lead and then play well on Sunday and get the win. I couldn’t be more happy and I think I look pretty good in green, too.”
Johnson spent 11 days in a Las Vegas hotel last month in COVID-19 quarantine instead of playing his intended tune-up events, only to finish second last week in Houston.
“Sit in the hotel room for two weeks, it doesn’t do a lot for the golf game, but I put a lot of work in at Houston and this week,” Johnson said. “Fortunate that I was able to keep the game in good form.”
His final struggle was less with rivals and more with his own emotions.
“It was a battle all day, just an internal battle with myself,” Johnson said. “I was nervous all day. It never got easier… not from the first tee until the last putt. I was battling all day, in a good way.”
Johnson was joined for the week by caddie-brother Austin Johnson, whose tears on the 18th green had Dustin saying, “Hey, I’ve still got to finish this off. I can’t be crying.”
He later said, “It’s unbelievable having my brother on my bag. I just love experiencing all these moments with him. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
As he told two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson when he walked off the 18th green, “I’ve been dreaming of putting that jacket on my whole life.”
And having 15-time major winner Tiger Woods put the jacket on his shoulders was nice, too.
“Having Tiger put it on was awesome and unbelievable. You wouldn’t want it any other way,” Johnson said. “But any guy could put it on me and I’d be just fine.”
Asked if he felt robbed of an epic moment of cheers with the lack of spectators due to COVID-19, Johnson said, “No, I do not.”
“They bring a lot of excitement and just they make the Masters, really,” he said. “But I would say if I had to say one way or the other, probably made it a little easier to get it done without having all the fans.”