Golf's most famous heckler is headed to the Masters (he swears he'll behave!)

Wednesday March 8th, 2017
1:53 | Tour & News
Ryder Cup: American Hero Makes Putt, Defeats Europe, Wins $100

It's been roughly five months since David Johnson earned the title of golf's most famous heckler. Surely you recall the scene: During a Thursday practice round at the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National in Minnesota, Johnson, among the massive gallery just off the 8th green, woofed at Rory McIlroy and Andy Sullivan that he could hole a tricky putt that had baffled the Europeans. Oh, could he really? Henrik Stenson so wanted to see Johnson attempt the putt that he invited him inside the ropes. Justin Rose placed a $100 bill next to the ball, and Johnson lined up the biggest 12-footer of his life.

And then ... draino. The crowd erupted, as did Johnson. Players hugged and laughed as the money changed hands. A viral video followed, as did dozens of interviews and a guest spot on The Late Show. (Oh, and a year's supply of shoes!)

The party didn't end there. In a recent interview from his office in Mayville, N.D., Johnson, a 30-year-old insurance agent, revealed that he has been invited back to Hazeltine for a round this summer (with the same hole location planned for the 8th!), and that he's also scheduled to attend the Masters next month.

That's right, golf fans, the Ryder Cup super-heckler will be at Augusta National.

GOLF.com: Have you ever thought of what would have happened if you missed that putt?

JOHNSON: I don't know how many times it's happened [for a player to bring a fan on the green]. Have they done that before and it just hasn't worked? Has it gone in or what were the circumstance that made it such a big deal? I've thought that, too, is how did it get so big. I certainly can attribute that to Rory. I think when he initially posted it [on Twitter], he kinda started the ripple effect of getting it around. But to me, it's still crazy.

If we went to Hazeltine right now, 8th green, same spot, same putt, how many do you make out of 10?

I'll be able to tell you. Because I got an invite by a member at Hazeltine for the opportunity to come down this summer and play the course. So we're going down there. I'm inviting three people and he's going to join us. And the greenskeeper's already advised that they'll be putting the hole in that exact same spot for when I'm on the course. So I anticipate trying it again. But I don't really anticipate making it again. Looking back at it, I could probably hit that putt 25 times. And that was the one time it's gonna go in.

When you look back at the whole craziness from the Ryder Cup, what moment most sticks with you?

One of the most memorable moments, of course, is being on the [8th] green. And then the responses of the players. You know, that's something that I'll remember. I think they seemed to enjoy it as much as I did. They all had big smiles and celebrated and gave high-fives. That's something that stands out: Even though these professional athletes are at the peak of their sport, they still took the time to enjoy a moment like that with the fans.

And for Henrik to just pull me out like that and say, "I'm gonna give it a shot," that just doesn't happen. So for somebody to do that, for somebody to share a moment like that is pretty incredible. I gained a lot of respect for all of those guys. Then afterwards, I went down to the driving range. And Henrik took time to have a five-minute interview with me with, I believe it was, Golf Channel Europe or one of the golf programs in Europe. And for Rory to stop by and talk for a little bit and take pictures.

David Johnson sits in his Mayville, N.D., office with the autographed $100 bill and three signed golf balls he got from Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose at the Ryder Cup. On the wall are pictures from his viral putt and a newspaper clipping of the story.
Courtesy Photo

Roughly how many interviews did you do on site that week? 

While we were on the grounds, I probably did 10 or 15 interviews. But probably did another 10 or 15, I believe, while we were back at the place that we were staying for the week. ... The day it happened, my phone went dead after about an hour and a half of getting calls and text messages and voicemails. But the first day, I had over 70 different people that reached out. And then for the next three days, probably 150, 200 people that reached out, whether it be Facebook or phone calls or text messages or replying to other people's messages.  

You had to probably limit your drink consumption, too, given the media attention.

I did. [Laughs] It changed the Ryder Cup experience a little bit. You go there and your buddies are having a good time. And I really had to tone it down to be able to talk to everyone that was requesting conversations.

What was it like when got home? How did you come down from such an adrenaline high?

That's a good question. It was crazy. The emotions that are going through you on the green when the putt goes in, I really never had that much emotion [before]. I played sports all my life and I've done a lot of things personally that I've celebrated and had fun with. But to do something on that level, the emotions got so high. The next thing I remember is hugging Rory McIlroy.

But the first couple days after are tough because I still had interviews and plans and things that were going on the first day I got back. And I had SportsCenter scheduled. I think it was 7:20 the next morning. So there was about zero sleep that night and I just thought of that. And then following that, then I was having conversations with The Late Show and setting up when I was go out to New York and be a part of that. It was something that could of happened to anybody. I was lucky enough that it happened to me.

"It was just something that obviously I'll remember forever. And I got to be a part of it with some of the best golfers in the world. It was just a remarkable experience."
Keyur Khamar/PGA Tour

SportsCenter, Colbert. What other shows did you appear on?

I did a phone interview on Jim Rome. I was on live with WCCO with Mark Rosen. I was live on "Good Morning America." I was live on CNN.

And then one of my favorite interviews that I did at the course, at Hazeltine, other than being able to do live on those other shows, was the radio interview I did with Frank (Bassett) from Golf Talk America. And I did that and that lasted about 15, 20 minutes. In doing that, I was invited by the owner of the Azalea House down in Augusta to come for a day at the Masters. So that was very cool. I am looking forward to that. 

Is it just you going to Augusta?

No, me and my dad, my cousin that was with me and a couple other buddies are going down there for the Thursday round.

Are you planning to heckle players from the azaleas?

No. [Laughs] Not at all.

Johnson was wearing a pair of Sanuk shoes when he made the putt. The company was so thrilled with the free advertising, they sent him a year’s supply of kicks.
Courtesy Photo

Are you a habitual heckler? Or was Hazeltine a one-off?

You've been to a Ryder Cup, right? It's just different. A Ryder Cup tournament, the Ryder Cup experience is a different golf experience than a normal experience. I was at the PGA when it was at Hazeltine. And it's very much more player-focused, shot-focused, reserved, good shots and cheering when something good happens. Whereas the Ryder Cup is U.S. versus Europe, it's cheer for your team, be as loud as you can, live in the moments. Because the players are living in the moments. They're feeding off energy. It's reflected in the fans to be able to push their team, will their team to a win.

Do strangers recognize you from your Ryder Cup fame?

In random places. Somebody will walk up and say, "You're the guy from the Ryder Cup, aren't 'ya?" I go, "Yeah." And they say, "Good job," and shake my hand and go on with it.

Who was your favorite golfer before the Ryder Cup?

Rory.

And your favorite golfer now?

Certainly still put Rory there. But I gained a lot of respect for Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose as part of it. It's hard to separate any of those guys now. I think they're all phenomenal golfers. And I followed them all the same, at this point. But as I said to Rory before it happened, because the week before the Ryder Cup, he holed out [at the Tour Championship]. He had that celebration in the fairway. And I told him I was trying to one-up his celebration. I said, "I sat there and I watched you win the FedEx Cup in dramatic fashion with my kids. They got to experience that. Then a week later, here I am meeting you." That's pretty phenomenal.

David Johnson hugs Rory McIlroy after making the putt at Hazeltine. Rory was his favorite golfer before the tournament and, of course, still is.
Keyur Khamar/PGA Tour

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