OAKMONT, Pa. — Dustin Johnson settled the score Sunday in the U.S. Open.
Johnson atoned for his past mishaps in majors by showing he had the smarts to handle the toughest test in golf, even while playing the final two hours without knowing where he stood when the USGA questioned whether he should be penalized one stroke for his ball moving on the fifth green.
Johnson said the ball didn't move. The USGA said it would wait until after the round to decide.
America's most powerful golfer took matters into his own hands at Oakmont, capping off a chaotic, confusing final round by stuffing his approach at No. 18 into 5 feet for a birdie that made the penalty a moot point.
The USGA ended up penalizing him, turning his 68 into a 1-under 69. The score was irrelevant. He won by three shots with 4-under 276, the lowest winning score in nine U.S. Opens at Oakmont.
Finally, he's a major champion.
"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."
He saluted a Pittsburgh crowd that was on his side even amid all the uncertainty. The grandstands were raucous, with one fan shouting, "What's the call, USGA?" At the trophy presentation, when Fox Sports announcer Joe Buck brought up the penalty situation, the crowd booed.
"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."
He slammed the door at the end — a 10-foot par save on the 16th hole to keep his lead at two shots, a solid par on the 17th as Shane Lowry was self-destructing behind him, and a shot into the 18th that plopped down near the pin and settled 5 feet away for birdie.
"Might be one of the best shots I've ever hit under the circumstances," Johnson said.
Lowry, who began the final round with a four-shot lead that he lost on the front nine, caught Johnson when Johnson made his only bogey on the back nine. But were they tied? Was Johnson one shot behind? No one knew because of the unresolved penalty stroke.
Johnson played through it all, thinking only of the silver trophy that got away from him at Chambers Bay last year when he had a 12-foot eagle putt to win and then three-putted for par to lose by one to Jordan Spieth.
Lowry, the first player since Payne Stewart at the Olympic Club in 1998 to lose a four-shot lead in the final round of the U.S. Open, lost his putting touch that had carried him to the lowest 54-hole total at Oakmont. After finishing his 5-under 65 third round in the weather-delayed tournament in the morning, Lowry was at 7-under 203.
In the final round, he three-putted from long range on Nos. 14-16, and Johnson was flawless at the end. Lowry shot 6-over 76 to finish 1 under with Jim Furyk (66) and Scott Piercy (69).
"Bitterly disappointed, standing here," Lowry said. "And, you know, it's not easy to get yourself in a position I got myself in today. It was there for the taking, and I didn't take it."
There was no doubting Johnson had the talent to win a major. Spieth said two weeks ago that Johnson was "arguably the most talented player on the PGA Tour."
But did he have the patience? The wits? The smarts?
Besides last year's Open failure, he had a two-shot penalty at Whistling Straits that kept him out of a playoff in the 2010 PGA Championship when Johnson grounded his club in sand without realizing it was a bunker. He was chasing down Darren Clarke in the 2011 British Open when he hit a 2-iron out of bounds on the 14th hole. He lost a three-shot lead at Pebble Beach in the 2010 U.S. Open by closing with 82.
By winning his first major three days before his 32nd birthday, he made his biggest move to keep his past failures from being paraded on the witness stand, bearing testimony to his crime of not being able to close out a major.