AUGUSTA, Ga. — In this one-of-a-kind Masters that had no fans and no roars, Dustin Johnson made sure it had no drama. And when he polished off his five-shot victory Sunday with lowest score in tournament history, he had no words.
Looking smart in the green jacket he had dreamed of winning for so long, Johnson spoke to a small gathering on the putting green in absence of the official awards ceremony, but only briefly. In control of every aspect of his game on an Augusta National course that never allows anyone to relax, he couldn’t speak when it was over. Instead, he turned to wipe his eyes.
“I’ve never had this much trouble gathering myself,” Johnson finally said. “On the golf course, I’m pretty good at it.”
No one was better in this Masters. Not even close.
Johnson overcame a nervous start that conjured memories of past majors he had failed to finish off, and he then delivered a command performance that added his touch to a Masters unlike another.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was the first Masters played in November. It was the first without ropes and without roars because fans were not allowed. The only spectators were one guest for each player, coaches, Augusta National members and officials.
Johnson entered the day leading by four. Leading by two heading into Amen Corner, the world’s No. 1 player got through the 12th hole — where Tiger Woods earlier hit three balls in Rae’s Creek and made 10 — and he then ran off three straight birdies to pull away from Cameron Smith and Sungjae Im, the only players who had a chance to catch him.
Johnson closed with 4-under 68 and finished at 20-under 268, breaking by two shots the scoring record set by Woods in 1997 and matched by Jordan Spieth in 2015. His five-shot win was the largest since Woods won by 12 in 1997. He had only four bogeys in 72 holes, another record, this one held by Jack Nicklaus and Jimmy Demaret. He missed only 12 greens all week, a record last matched by Woods.
But all that mattered to him was that green jacket.
Nothing ever comes easily for Johnson in the majors. Four times he previously had at least a share of the 54-hole lead in a major and didn’t convert.
On this day, he not only converted, but he had Woods, the defending champion, help him into the size 42 long green jacket in Butler Cabin.
“Having Tiger put it on was awesome. You wouldn’t want it any other way,” Johnson said. And then he smiled before adding, “But any guy could put it on me and I’d be just fine.”
Johnson, 36, now has two majors to go along with his 25 victories worldwide, a combination that validates him as one of the greats of his generation.
He had had questions, too, about whether he could hold a lead in a major in the last round. His only major win had been at the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 2016 when he rallied from four shots behind.
“I’m sure a lot of you all think … there were doubts in my mind just because I had been there. I’m in this position a lot of times,” Johnson said. “When am I going to have the lead and finishing off a major? It definitely proved that I can do it.”
He had some nervous moments early.
Johnson’s four-shot lead entering the round was reduced to one after five holes. But he quickly restored control with a birdie at the par-3 sixth. That restored his lead to three shots when Im missed a 3-foot par putt. Smith was the only one who was closer than two the rest of the way.
Smith got quite the consolation. He became the first player in Masters history to post all four rounds in the 60s. All it got him was a silver medal.
“I thought I’d have a decent shot if I got to Dustin’s original score at the start of the day, 16 under,” Smith said. “I knew I had to put the pressure on early. Got out of the gates pretty good, and DJ was just too good at the end.”
Im had no complaints. The 22-year-old was playing in his first Masters and had never been on the course until a Monday practice round. “To finish tied for second is unbelievable,” the South Korean said through a translator.
Johnson became the 12th Masters champion to never trail after any round. He is the first No. 1 player in the world to win since Woods in 2002. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” he said. “I took what the course gave me and hit the shots I felt I could hit.”