Dustin Johnson overcame a nervous start that conjured memories of past majors he failed to finish off, and then delivered a command performance that added his own touch to a Masters unlike another, polishing off his five-shot victory Sunday with lowest score in tournament history.
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, coaches, Augusta National members and officials.
Leading by two shots 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 then ran off three straight birdies to pull away from Cameron Smith and Sungjae Im, the only players who had a chance.
Johnson closed with a 4-under 68 and finished at 20-under 268, breaking by two shots the record set by Tiger Woods in 1997 and matched by Jordan Spieth in 2015.
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 set by Woods.
His five-shot victory was the largest at the Masters since Woods won by 12 in 1997.
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.
Johnson’s four-shot lead was reduced to one after five holes, and then he quickly restored control with an 8-iron to 6 feet on the top shelf on the right corner of the green at the par-3 sixth for birdie. 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.
The betting favorite and biggest basher in golf, Bryson DeChambeau, couldn’t even beat 63-year-old Bernhard Langer, who shot 71 and wound up one shot ahead of the U.S. Open champion.
The average score for the week was 71.75, the lowest ever, breaking the record from last year.
Smith (69) and Sungjae Im (69) were second at 15 under. Justin Thomas was fourth at 12 under.
Tiger needed a late rally on the back nine to avoid his worst score ever at the Masters.
The defending champion birdied five of the last six holes to come in at 4-over 76 on Sunday. That didn’t quite make up for his septuple-bogey 10 on the 12th hole, a par 3 where he put three balls in the water.
Nineteen months after winning his fifth green jacket, Woods left the course at 1 under for the tournament. At the time, he was 16 strokes behind leader Dustin Johnson.
Woods’ worst score ever at the Masters was a 77 in the third round of his first appearance, in 1995, when he was still an amateur.