Dustin Johnson Loses A Stroke And Still Wins U.S. Open

Dustin Johnson won his first major open earlier today, despite the possibility of a lost stroke dangling precariously above his head from hole five through to the bitter end. His birdie on the 18th hole guaranteed his victory with or without the penalty, as highlighted in a story by ESPN.

The USGA did, indeed, dock Johnson one stroke at the end of his round, but we doubt he’ll lose sleep over it. Why? Because he finished at 4-under par and took a three-stroke win, earning himself the title of U.S. Open champ.

At the end of the round, in celebratory fashion, Dustin Johnson lifted his son, Tatum, who is 18-months-old, and held him tightly on what will likely be one of his most memorable Father’s Days ever. Johnson lifted his trophy in victory with a smile on his face for all to see.

“I’ve been here a bunch of times and haven’t quite got it done,” Johnson said. “But today, I did. And it feels really good.”

The Open was hosted by Oakmont Country Club in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. The fans remained staunchly on Johnson’s side despite the uncertainty of the penalty. One fan shouted,”What’s the call, USGA?” from his place in the stands, and when Joe Buck from Fox Sports brought up the penalty during the trophy presentation, the fans booed.

He told Buck, “I just tried to focus on what I was doing, not worrying about the penalty stroke,” Johnson said. “Just playing golf from here to the house.”

Golf legend Jack Nicklaus was supportive, lending his experience to the controversy. “I told (Dustin Johnson) what you did with all that crap thrown at you was pretty good,” he said.

Nicklaus also verbalized his feelings that what the USGA did concerning the penalty was “unfair” and “terrible,” and seemed to confirm the consensus that having the possibility of a penalty hanging over one’s head for the bulk of a round would be extremely challenging.

Perhaps the most difficult part to grasp is the fact that Johnson’s penalty situation was one of integrity. On the fifth hole, he backed off from a par putt, then summoned an official because the thought he had seen his ball move. He was not given a penalty at the time. He made the putt and his score was listed as par. However, the USGA, which is short for United States Golf Association, told Dustin that they would review the situation after the round.

No pressure.

The Rules of Golf used to state that a player would have automatically been assessed a one-stroke penalty if his or her ball moved. Now, new rules are in place. The new rule (Rule 18-2 to be exact) states a player will be penalized if the facts show he or she actually caused the ball to move. Shockingly, a player doesn’t have to touch the ball in order to be deemed the cause. In Dustin Johnson’s case, following two practice strokes, he put his putter behind the ball but did not ground it. He then immediately pulled back, as he thought he saw the ball move slightly.

With a one-stroke penalty hanging over his head, Johnson faced a tight run all the way to the end. He trailed behind Shane Lowry by two strokes after the fifth, but managed to top the leaderboard by two strokes after hole 13. He then clawed his way forward with a one-stroke lead after hole 14.

At the end of the match, he pulled ahead with a 10-foot par put on 16. That put secured his two-stroke lead. By hole 17, and another par for Johnson, Lowry was falling apart. Johnson sealed the deal with a birdie on 18 that launched him into golf history and gave him his very first victory in an Open.

“Might be one of the best shots I’ve ever hit under the circumstances,” Dustin said.

Some of his fellow golfers took to the Twittersphere to voice strong opinions about the penalty situation during the match.

With or without the penalty chatter, Dustin Johnson is likely having one of the best Sundays of his life, as his family celebrates him as both a father and a champion. Congratulations, Dustin, on a game well played.

[Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images]