The three-putt that did in Dustin Johnson at this US Open came at the 13th hole on Friday, not the 18th hole on Sunday. As for scoring drama – well, this was one time he may have wished he didn’t know where he stood. The player who turned the US Open into a soap opera of sorts the previous two years won’t be around for the weekend this time. Johnson shot 1-over 73 on Friday to finish at 4 over, three shots off the cut line. He’ll head home to spend time with his son, River Jones Johnson, who was born Monday. ”I really like this golf course,” Johnson insisted. ”It sets up really well for me, especially if I’m driving it like I did today. But I couldn’t have shot any higher. I just struggled on the greens. It’s simple.” The stats prove him right. He hit 12 of the 14 fairways in the second round, and one of the misses came on No. 15, when he was in desperation mode and tried to drive the green on the 357-yard hole. He had five three-putts over the two days (Jordan Spieth, playing in his group, had none) and averaged 2.0 putts on the 24 greens he hit in regulation (that’s 0.23 higher than his average this year, which only ranks 177th). Johnson put his weekend in jeopardy after missing a 6-footer for par on the par-3 13th. The bogey there put him at 2 over, and on the par-5 14th, he overcooked a chip shot up the steep hill, which led to another three-putt and another bogey.
At least he’ll have plenty of company at the airport. Jason Day and Rory McIlroy also missed the cut, and this marked the first time the top three players in the world have all missed the cut in a major. ”If you look at the golf course and you even talk to me, Jason or Rory, this course sets up perfect for us,” Johnson said. ”But as we all know, this game’s all about putting. So it’s pretty simple, I just didn’t get it in the hole fast enough.” He became the third defending U.S. Open champion to miss the cut in the last six years, and has now missed the weekend in the last three majors. He missed the cut at last year’s PGA and withdrew from this year’s Masters after falling down a staircase. But in the previous two U.S. Opens, Johnson added life to what is traditionally golf’s toughest and often most drama-free major.
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In the final round at Oakmont last year, his golf ball moved slightly as he positioned himself for a short putt on the fifth hole. No penalty was assessed, but after officials saw the video, they thought one might be called for. On the 12th tee, they told him he might be penalized and he played the final seven holes not knowing how big his lead was. He ended up winning by three. That victory was redemption after 2015 when, on the bumpy, much-criticized greens at Chambers Bay, he three-putted from 8 feet on the final hole to give away the win, then the tie. Spieth ended up winning by a shot. At Erin Hills, all Johnson could do was go down swinging on a Friday.
Positioned 299 yards from the pin on the par-5 18th, and needing to hole out the shot to make the weekend, he lashed at a 3-wood that hit about pin high, then rolled off the back of the green. ”As good as I got,” he told Spieth, smiling as he walked with him down the fairway. ”I had to hit it all.” As he did most of the week, he hit it great – and then settled for a score that wasn’t good enough. Johnson said he plans to take four weeks off. He said he’ll play a lot and work on his putting in advance of the British Open at Royal Birkdale next month. ”I’m sure mama’s waiting for me to get home so I can help her out,” Johnson said of his girlfriend, Paulina Gretzky.
Then he exited stage left, stopped to sign a couple golf balls for the patrolmen who followed him for the second round, and checked his cell phone as he walked up the hill and toward the locker room for the last time this week.