AUGUSTA, Ga. — Masters momentum is mostly mean.
One step, the Johnson brothers were walking down the 15th fairway at Augusta National on Sunday almost hopelessly chasing an apparently unshakable leader.
A step later, they saw a scoreboard that insisted Jordan Spieth fell victim to an ultra-rare quadruple bogey. With one of the most dramatic shifts in golf history, Dustin Johnson suddenly was within reach of his first major championship.
“We tried not to focus on anybody else, just on what we needed to do, which was get good looks coming home,” said former Charleston Southern basketball player Austin Johnson, who caddies for his older brother.
Eventually, mad blogs and Englishmen took over the 80th Masters. Spieth literally and figuratively presented a green jacket to Danny Willett, who finished three shots ahead of countryman Lee Westwood and Spieth and four ahead of Johnson, Paul Casey and J.B. Holmes.
Not before Johnson, a Columbia native who played at Coastal Carolina, clawed to within a stroke of the lead, only to fall back with a double-bogey on the par 4 No. 17 hole.
One of these Aprils: Johnson’s tie for fourth place is his best Masters finish, topping the tie for sixth last year.
So close again: Johnson, 31, was runner-up at the 2011 British Open and 2015 U.S. Open, and infamously had a one-shot lead entering the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits before a controversial two-stroke, club-grounding penalty cost him a major.
“I missed quite a few short (putts), not necessarily bad puts, just burning the edges,” Johnson said. “I’m definitely pleased with the way I played.”
The drama set up nice for Johnson when the 22-year-old Spieth imploded after leading the Masters for seven straight rounds and 11 more holes.
On that 15th hole, one of the tour’s longest hitters lined up a 20-foot putt for eagle.
Johnson missed just low.
Forced to scramble for birdies, Johnson’s tee shot caught the front of a bunker on the par 4 No. 17 hole.
“No doubt about it, we knew we needed to make a birdie to have a chance,” Austin Johnson said. “He just didn’t catch it as cleanly as he wanted it to and it came up two feet short of carrying the bunker, which is all we needed it to do.”
With the double-bogey, Willett cleared another hurdle on the way to his first major.
Still, the week had its moments for the Johnson traveling party. Johnson’s caddy for the Wednesday par 3 contest was fiancé Paulina Gretzky, the model whose father is former hockey star Wayne Gretzky. Paulina, it looked like, had a great time, at one point chatting up Augusta National member Condoleezza Rice, the former U.S. Secretary of State.
The Great One, the leading scorer in NHL history, was on hand Sunday in the Johnson gallery.
Weekend pressure at the Masters brings out different things in different golfers at different times. Sometimes surly Bubba Watson played the green jacket card while trading insults with an Augusta patron Saturday after an errant shot, according to USA Today.
Watson to a man at the 10th hole: “Can you back up, you’re really not supposed to be back here.”
Patron: “Neither is your ball.”
Watson: “I don’t know about you, but I have two green jackets. Thanks for coming.”
Spieth handled disaster with class.
Johnson showed a warmer, fuzzier side, bringing his toddler son to a post-Masters interview session.
“I feel great,” said Johnson, who lives just down the street from his brother in Jupiter, Fla. “I think my game’s exactly where it needs to be. I feel like I’m playing really solid. I feel like I’ve got control of my game. So I’m looking forward to the year, for sure.”
It’s not quite a green jacket but it’s not the other Masters momentum extreme, either.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff