ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Masters golf champion Dustin Johnson shows off his green jacket after his victory Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Updated with more information at 7:55 p.m. on Nov. 15, 2020.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — There were no spring blooms, no fans and no roars throughout this unique Masters, and as the year's final major tournament came to a close Sunday afternoon, Dustin Johnson made sure it also had no drama.

And when he polished off his five-shot victory Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club with the lowest score in tournament history, he had no words. Only tears.

Looking smart in his Masters green jacket he dreamed his whole life of winning, Johnson spoke to a small gathering on the putting green in absence of the official ceremony, but only briefly. In control of every aspect of his game on a course that never allows anyone to relax, he couldn't talk 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 Sunday. Not even close.

Johnson overcame a nervous start that conjured memories of past majors he failed to finish off, then delivered a command performance that added his own touch to a Masters unlike any other.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the first played in November. It was the first without ropes and without roars because patrons were not allowed — only one guest for each player, plus coaches, club members and officials.

Leading by two shots heading into Amen Corner, the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Ranking got through the 12th hole — where 2019 Masters champion Tiger Woods earlier hit three balls in Rae's Creek and wound up putting down a 10 on his scorecard — and then ran off three straight birdies to pull away from South Korea's Sungjae Im and Australia's Cameron Smith. They were the only players who had a realistic chance to threaten Johnson, who with a 7-under-par 65 on Saturday set the 54-hole record at 16-under 200 and led by four shots going into Sunday.

Johnson closed with a 68 and finished at 20-under 268, breaking by two shots the record Woods set in 1997 — when he won his first of five Masters titles and 15 major championships — and matched by Jordan Spieth in 2015.

Johnson had only four bogeys in 72 holes, breaking by one a Masters record held by several, including six-time winner Jack Nicklaus. He also missed only 12 greens all tournament, a record last set by Woods.

All that mattered was that green jacket. Nothing ever comes easily for Johnson in the majors, but nothing looked so natural as seeing Woods help him into that size 42 long in Butler Cabin.

"Having Tiger put it on was awesome. You wouldn't want it any other way," said Johnson, who smiled before adding, "But any guy could put it on me and I'd be just fine."

His five-shot victory was the largest at the Masters since Woods won by 12 in 1997. All that was missing were the cheers from a crowd for any of his pivotal putts early and his birdie putts on the back nine that put it away.

It wasn't the loneliest walk up the hill to the 18th green. About 250 people offering warm applause and partner Paulina Gretzky rushed onto the green to celebrate with the champ and his brother, caddie Austin Johnson.

Johnson 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.

Gone are the doubts he could hold a lead in the major on the final day. Four times he had gone into the final round with at least a share of the lead without winning. Johnson had questions, too. His only major victory was the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club, where 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."

There were some nervous moments early in the final round, though.

Johnson's four-shot lead was reduced to one after five holes, but he quickly restored control with a marvelous 8-iron shot on the par-3 sixth. The ball wound up on the top shelf on the right corner of the green, leaving a six-foot putt he made for birdie. When Im missed a three-foot par putt, Johnson's lead became three, and Smith was the only one who was closer than two the rest of the way.

Smith couldn't have been asked to do much more. The 27-year-old whose best finish in a major had been a tie for fourth at the 2015 U.S. Open became the first player in Masters history to post all four rounds in the 60s — and 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 D.J. was just too good at the end."

Im matched Smith's closing 69 as they shared second, with third-ranked Justin Thomas fourth at 12 under after a 70. Rory McIlroy, still a green jacket short of the career Grand Slam, salvaged a tie for fifth place, his 69 leaving him equal with Dylan Frittelli (72) at 11 under.

Johnson became the 12th Masters champion to never trail after any round, and his closing 68 broke another record held by Woods — it was his 11th consecutive subpar round at Augusta National.

No one had a better final stretch than Woods, but only after he posted the highest single-hole score of his career with that 10 on No. 12. He finished with five birdies over the last six holes to manage a 76 and tied for 38th.

The betting favorite and biggest basher in golf, Bryson DeChambeau, couldn't even beat 63-year-old Bernhard Langer, who shot a 71 and wound up one stroke ahead of the reigning U.S. Open champion.

These were only sideshows on a quiet Sunday at Augusta National. Johnson, the first No. 1-ranked golfer to win the Masters since Woods in 2002, was the main event.

Even a record score and the widest margin of victory since 1997 didn't mean it was easy. This is Johnson, after all, who for all his talent has dealt with more than his share of misfortune, not all his own doing.

"I knew it wasn't going to be easy," he said.

After the big turning point at No. 6 and his nifty par save from a bunker on the seventh, Johnson didn't bother looking at a leaderboard until his brother asked if he knew where he stood on the 18th green. Johnson knew only that he was in control and it was up to everyone else to catch him.

"I took what the course gave me," he said, "and hit the shots I felt I could hit."

And so ended the Masters in November, so strange in so many ways. No roars from Amen Corner. Soft conditions — not only from rain that delayed the start but an autumn date that affected the grassled to record scoring. The average score for the week was 71.75, the lowest ever, breaking the record from last year.

Gone were the white and pink blooms of azaleas and dogwoods, replaced by autumn hues of brown and gold.

But no matter when it is held, the Masters is defined by green. And the jacket fit Johnson well.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT