Golfer of the month? That should be a gimme, right? Jordan Spieth for winning his second straight major championship at the 115th U.S. Open. But let's face it; the 21-year-old golden boy has already sewn up Golfer of the Year, and he has lots of accolades ahead.
Instead, this month's award goes to the man who all but gift-wrapped and hand-delivered to Spieth on Father's Day at Chambers Bay. Johnson's three-putt on the 18th took him from potential winner to playoff contender to runner-up in a 1-2-3 procession of strokes within 13 feet of the hole. After all that, D.J. could use an award and a hug.
Yes, we admit to being a bit partial to Johnson, who grew up in South Carolina, was a two-time All-American at nearby Coastal Carolina University and still calls Myrtle Beach his hometown. We have cheered for him through his triumphs and stuck with him through his hard times, and there have been plenty of both. He's quickly earning the dreaded backhanded title that dogged Phil Mickelson for years – best player not to win a major.
There was the 2010 U.S. Open, when he carried a three-stroke lead into the final day and shot an 82 to go home empty handed. Later that year, D.J. led on the 18th hole of the PGA Championship before being assessed a two-shot penalty for grounding his club in a poorly marked bunker. And a double bogey down the stretch of the 2011 Open ended his chances.
But none of them compare to Sunday's heartache. Needing an eagle to win or a birdie to tie, Johnson went aggressively at the insane greens of Chambers Bay. He sat 13 feet for an eagle but missed just wide and too long, missing the comebacker that would have sent him into a Monday playoff with Spieth. Instead, D.J. once again melted under the heat.
Sadly, most fans will remember Johnson for his unfortunate three-putt without regard to the recent road he has traveled to return to contention. After taking six months away from the Tour to address personal issues, Johnson has taken control of his life, had his first son, Tatum, with fiancé Pauline Gretzky, and returned to the tour with a renewed focus and fire.
Those of us who have known Johnson for more than a decade knew he had the talent to be a force on the PGA Tour, and he was from the start, winning at least one tournament per year his first seven seasons on tour. But we also knew he had the ability to do more – win majors and play with a consistency he has yet to display.
But his recent hiatus, which he admitted was his effort to prioritize his life and put away his partying ways to be a better father and husband. Not to speak for everyone, but Johnson is the kind of guy most of us can identify with, more so than Spieth, whose biggest dilemma at 21 has been where to store all his major trophies. Johnson is more like the common man who has troubles and faces them head on, only to emerge a better man on the back end.
So call Johnson a choker if you want. We have a feeling the best years of his life and career are still ahead of him. He will win a major, probably majors, and it will make all of his struggles seem with it. We have a different term for guys who tackle their issues and overcome their struggles, and it’s called the Golfer of the Month.