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Dustin Johnson reverses history of blown leads in majors with 2020 Masters win

Dustin Johnson walked into Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday morning with history working against him. Before the 2020 Masters, Johnson had held a 54-hole lead at a major championship four times. He’d failed to win each one of those four times.

But Johnson had also never led by as many as the four shots he held above the field at this out-of-time November Masters. He entered Sunday with a chance to shoot the best four-round score in Masters history, too. When it comes to blown leads at majors, Johnson’s 2010 collapse at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach comes immediately to mind. Johnson began to change that narrative Sunday, though, closing out a record-setting Masters for his second major victory and first protected 54-hole lead.

To understand what history Johnson overcame, take a look back with us at the four majors Johnson has entered the final round leading, and what happened to stop him from winning.

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Johnson has been of the world’s best golfers for years, spending 103 weeks ranked No. 1 (fourth-most all-time), and now he has two major championship wins: the 2016 U.S. Open and the 2020 Masters. He has come agonizingly close several times, having blown a 54-hole lead on four other occasions. At the 2020 Masters, he protected his 54-hole lead at a major for the first time.

Dustin Johnson’s blown leads at majors

2010 U.S. Open

Course: Pebble Beach
54-hole lead: 3 strokes
Final-round score: 82
Finish: T-5

This was the first time Johnson led heading into Sunday at a major. He was 25, and he shot a 66 in the third round to lead Graeme McDowell by three shots heading into the last 18 holes. 

Sunday at Pebble Beach tested all the golfers, with very few even approaching par for the day. But Johnson almost immediately went from leading to out of contention. He triple-bogeyed the second hole, then followed that up with a double-bogey on the third. 

Johnson’s 82 was the worst final-round score at a U.S. Open by the leader since 1911. McDowell went on to win despite shooting three-over in the final round.

“I felt sorry for him,” McDowell told the Associated Press. “We’ve all been there and it’s not a lot of fun.”

2015 U.S. Open

Course: Chambers Bay
54-hole lead: Tied for lead
Final-round score: 70
Finish: T-2

There was a four-way tie for first place entering the final round: Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Branden Grace. Johnson burst out to the lead with two birdies on the front nine. But then on the back, he bogeyed three out of four holes to fall back off the top of the leaderboard.

Spieth ended up contending with an on-charging Louis Oosthuizen on the back nine, with Spieth overcoming a late double-bogey to finish one shot clear and win. It made Spieth a back-to-back major winner after he won the 2015 Masters in record-tying fashion. 

2018 U.S. Open

Course: Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
54-hole lead: Tied for lead
Final-round score: 70
Finish: Third

Again, Johnson entered the final round in a four-way tie for the lead, with Daniel Berger, Tony Finau and Brooks Koepka. They were all three-over for the tournament, proving the difficult of Shinnecock Hill’s course that weekend.

Johnson’s putting hurt him in this final round. Four times, he three-putted for bogeys. Koepka, on the other hand, stayed in contention and used a birdie on the par-5 16th to pull away and win.

2020 PGA Championship

Course: TPC Harding Park
54-hole lead: 1 stroke
Final-round score: 68
Finish: T-2

Johnson had an even-keel final round. Through 15 holes, he was even par. Then he chipped in for birdie at the 16th and holed a birdie on a 17-foot putt on the 18th to give him his two-under score in the final round.

The only problem for Johnson was that Colin Morikawa got red-hot and shot a final-round 64, which included a 54-foot pitch shot from off the green that went in for birdie on 14. Johnson wasn’t upset with how he played.

“I played really well,” Johnson said afterward. “I played solid. Generally, with the lead shooting 68 at a major on Sunday, nine times out of 10 you’re going to win. Obviously Collin played really well.”

Biggest blown leads at the Masters

Greg Norman (1996, led by six strokes)

This is tied for the largest blown lead in PGA Tour history for a player’s advantage after 16 holes. Norman went out and shot a six-over 78, which allowed Nick Faldo to track him down and win. 

Ed Sneed (1979, led by five strokes)

Sneed’s lead had only dwindled to a three-shot margin by the time he got to the 16th hole. Sneed missed par putts on the last three holes to bogey each time, though. He went to a playoff with Fuzzy Zoeller, who bested Sneed to win the green jacket.

Ray Floyd (1990, led by four strokes)

Floyd was looking to become the oldest player to win the Masters. But Floyd double-bogeyed 17 and then, when in a playoff with Nick Faldo, he found the water. Afterward, Floyd said, “The pressure basically got to me. Isn’t that choking?”

Ken Venturi (1996, led by four strokes)

Venturi could’ve become the first amateur to win the green jacket. Instead, he three-putted four times on the back nine and carded a final-round 80. Jack Burke Jr. won that year, coming from eight shots back to be the largest come-from-behind winner in Masters history. 

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