AUGUSTA, Ga. — It’s already buried in the latest Tiger Woods lore somewhere under a pile of glory that’s topped with a red shirt and green jacket.
But did you notice that Dustin Johnson almost spoiled a recoronation started within milliseconds after Woods on Sunday at the Masters won a 15th major championship 11 years after winning the 14th?
The even-keeled former Coastal Carolina golfer from Irmo seems to work hard at not drawing attention.
DJ’s game is grand, his comments bland. His version of an emotional outburst is a quick and expressionless half-wave to acknowledge applause — as he did when finishing up on Sunday. Sort of the way a veteran CEO motions for the maître d'.
But boring is beautiful when you’re winning 20 PGA Tour events and 60 million dollars, or blocking out noise while closing on Tiger Woods on a Sunday at Augusta.
Johnson didn’t as much lose in the final round of the Masters; he ran out of holes while shooting a 68 to finish one shot back of Woods in a three-way tie for second place with Xander Schauffele and Brooks Koepka. No one, including Woods, finished faster than Johnson, who shot 4-under-par on the back nine.
You could say it was another blown chance on a course nicely suited for someone with long drives, accurate iron play and nearby golf roots.
But the 68-70-70-68 was the best Masters for Johnson, 34. It bodes well for upcoming trips to Augusta National.
“I just got off to a rough start,” Johnson said while Tiger was still on the course. “I tried to chase (Woods) down but I don’t think it was enough.”
It was enough to vault Johnson back into the No. 1 spot in the World Golf Ranking.
It’s hard to believe this guy won’t win a second major to go with his 2016 U.S. Open triumph at Oakmont, and easier to think it might come at the Masters.
Struggles and mentors
If PGA Tour pros were asked to pick the most talented, consistent competitor they might go with the 6-4, 190-pound athlete who can still dunk a basketball. Yet Johnson remains as known for missing opportunities in spectacular fashion as for winning:
• 2010 U.S. Open: led by three shots at Pebble Beach early on Sunday before fading.
• 2010 PGA Championship: controversial two-stroke penalty for club-grounding cost him the title at Whistling Straits.
• 2015 U.S. Open: another second-place finish, at Chambers Bay.
• 2017 Masters: Johnson was sizzling, and a favorite in a tournament field that didn’t include Woods. But a lower back injury suffered when Johnson slipped while hurrying down a staircase inside an Augusta rental home forced him to withdraw before the first round.
Mentors have helped him deal with all that. Allen Terrell, the coached who recruited him out of Dutch Fork High School to play at Coastal Carolina, is foremost.
Johnson has also benefited under the tutelage of his grandfather, former South Carolina Gamecocks basketball standout Art Whisnant, and Wayne Gretzky, the hockey icon who is the father of Johnson’s fiancée, Paulina Gretzky.
There is stability on the bag, too. Johnson’s longtime caddie is his younger brother, former Charleston Southern basketball player Austin Johnson, a College of Charleston graduate.
A six-month leave of absence from the PGA Tour in 2015 reportedly was forced by tour officials.
But Johnson showed signs of growth on and off the course in 2016 when he won the U.S. Open and later that year brought the trophy from his Jupiter, Fla., home to surprise the kids playing in the Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship in Murrells Inlet.
He took pictures with every player in the tournament.
Terrell, still Johnson’s coach and a partner in the Dustin Johnson Golf School, says DJ quietly gives money to charity projects and has given “the shirt off his back to strangers.”
Besting Tiger at No. 5
Much was made this year about Augusta National changes to the No. 5 hole. Forty yards were added to the par 4 to extend the uphill, dogleg left to 495 yards.
And, still, those fairway bunkers.
Woods struggled mightily with the new look, bogeying the hole all four days.
Johnson birdied No. 5 four times.
“I’m very comfortable out here,” said Johnson, who is in the field for this week's RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island. “If I’m swinging well, then I’m really comfortable, so it’s a golf course where I feel like I can attack and play very well.”
If not for a few DJ slip-ups, the sports world buzz might be about Tiger’s near miss at Augusta.
Or an epic playoff.
Johnson had birdie putts Sunday at 15, 16 and 17.
But his 17-foot putt for birdie at the par-4 No. 18 went left, a miss magnified when Woods bogeyed the hole.
Tiger Woods, Johnson said earlier in Masters week, “made golf cool.”
It would also be cool if we get a shootout matching the flashy Woods against the spectacularly boring Johnson in a major sometime soon.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff