This time, Dustin Johnson’s iron shot at the finishing hole landed on the green and trickled toward the hole. It didn’t mysteriously hang up on a backstop behind it.
This time, his short birdie putt on the 18th-hole green curled right into the back of the cup. It didn’t slide by on the left edge.
This time, he finally let the world in on his excitement to win a U.S. Open, instead of keeping all those past disappointments from major championships to himself.
In a classic year-later story of redemption, Johnson — who painfully lost to Jordan Spieth at Chambers Bay some 12 months ago — bounced back Sunday night to capture the 116th U.S. Open title at Oakmont Country Club.
Johnson’s machine-like 1-under-par 69 in the final round earned him a three-stroke victory over Jim Furyk (66), Scott Piercy (69) and Shane Lowry (76) for his first major title.
It would have been a final-round 68 for Johnson had USGA officials not issued a controversial post-round, one-stroke penalty on the South Carolina native for altering the position of his golf ball on the No. 5 green.
Afterward, Johnson said he did nothing wrong and disagreed with the USGA’s ruling, but “at the end of the day, it didn’t affect what happened, so it doesn’t bother me at all.”
Fortunately, for Johnson.
That hasn’t always been the case. He has endured some gut-wrenching misery in the past — some self-inflected, some happenstance — especially at majors. Consider:
▪ Johnson took a three-stroke lead into the final round of the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, but shot a final-round 82. Graeme McDowell won.
▪ Later that summer at the PGA Championship, Johnson thought he was headed to a playoff with Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer at Whistling Straits, only to find out while signing his scorecard that he was issued a two-shot penalty for grounding his club in a bunker.
▪ Johnson was in the final pairing at the 2011 British Open at Royal St. George’s. Charging on the back nine, he hit a 3-wood out of bounds at the 14th hole, and lost to Darren Clarke.
▪ Of course, the latest misstep was last year at Chambers Bay where Johnson three-putted from 12 feet on the finishing hole to hand the U.S. Open title to Spieth.
“I felt like I’ve handled myself very well in the past in the majors … but I just didn’t get quite over that hump,” Johnson said.
He did Sunday, coming from behind.
Maybe it was a blessing in disguise for Johnson — who turns 32 on Wednesday — to not carry the lead heading into the final round. That belonged to Lowry, who finished up the third round Sunday morning with a 65, and led by four shots.
Lowry’s advantage was immediately cut in half when he bogeyed the second hole, and Johnson birdied.
Then came the big controversy three holes later. As Johnson stood to address his birdie putt, he pulled the putter back when he noticed his golf ball began moving.
He immediately called over playing partner Lee Westwood. Both golfers agreed Johnson was not the cause of it, therefore no rule was broken.
Just in case, Johnson called over a USGA rules official to tell him what happened.
It wasn’t until the 12th tee box where Johnson was notified that the incident would be reviewed after his round to see whether or not an infraction took place — and a penalty would be issued.
“Just one more thing to add to the list, right?” Johnson said.
But the long-hitting American just kept splitting fairways with booming drives, and making short par putts, which he did four times of six feet or longer.
Lowry didn’t, and ultimately lost the tournament on the greens. He bogeyed three consecutive holes (Nos. 14-16) on three-putts.
In the end, Lowry became the first final-round leader to blow a four-shot lead since Payne Stewart in 1998 at The Olympic Club.
“I really feel like I let (a U.S. Open ) go today,” Lowry said. “It’s a great disappointment.”
Ah, disappointment — something Johnson finally replaced with elation.
And now he very well could be on the road to joining that current list of generational greats.
“It’s definitely a start to becoming a great player,” he said.