In the movie Groundhog Day Bill Murray’s character grapples with the fate of reliving the same day over and over. Sixteen years later, with Murray again getting the laughs, Dustin Johnson lived out a similar predicament. The second-year player was twice forced to sleep on a 54-hole lead, cooped up in his hotel room, flipping through sports channels and checking his cellphone for weather updates.
At the end of the movie Murray gets the girl, and at the end of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which spilled into Monday and was shortened to 54 holes, Johnson got the trophy. The win is the second of his Tour career, both victories coming in the last four months.
With play washed out and blown away on Sunday — a 40-foot pine tree toppled onto the 3rd fairway in winds that gusted as high as 60 mph — Johnson had to be patient to claim his prize. Though he would have preferred winning the old-fashioned way, in 72 holes, Johnson did not turn down a first-place check of $1,098,000 and an invitation to the Masters.
For Pebble’s first three rounds the tournament dodged the inclement weather, leaving the daylight hours to celebrities frolicking beneath partly cloudy skies. None drew out the humor like Murray, who was back at the event after a one-year absence. He dressed poorly, hit sweet irons and began one conversation by wading into the gallery and asking, “Will you be my friend on Facebook?”
While Murray handled the hijinks, the most sterling golf of the week belonged to the 24-year-old Johnson, who last October won the Turning Stone Resort Championship. Renowned on Tour for his ability to dunk a basketball since the seventh grade — he does it barefoot these days — the 6′ 4″ Johnson pounded his drives onto the soggy fairways of Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Poppy Hills, taking full advantage of his monster length. (He was fourth on Tour in driving in ’08, with a 309.9-yard average.) On Saturday he effectively shrank Poppy Hills, birdieing each of the course’s five par-5s in a round of 67.
His only faux pas of the week might have been not packing a few distractions in case of a weather delay. Mike Weir brought his wife, two kids, a cousin, his kids, the family Labrador and a stack of board games. Still, even Weir, who trailed Johnson by four shots, grew tired of family time and sounded like a boxer itching for a fight. “I’m here to try to win this tournament,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything, really, outside of lightning [that would make me not want to play]. I’ve eaten probably four times already, up and stretching. It’s tough to wait around.”
Mark Russell, a Tour official on site, could offer no comfort, as the bad weather had turned into a safety issue. “It was a dangerous situation,” he said. “It was too dangerous to get the fans and the spectators out there.” On Monday the course continued to get deluged by rain and officials called the event, making Johnson the champ at last.
“I’ve never really been in this situation before,” he said, holding the trophy. It’s the kind of day he hopes to experience over and over again.