He kept talking about the “internal battle with myself” that he’d fought throughout the morning and early afternoon at Augusta National.
This just in: He won.
Dustin Johnson conquered every acre he surveyed on Sunday. He won the Masters Tournament by the same four-stroke margin he carried into the round. He shot 20-under-par, two strokes better than the record Tiger Woods (1997) and Jordan Spieth (2015) had shared.
He walked off the fifth green after his second consecutive bogey and led Cameron Smith by a mere shot, but then he guided an 8-iron to within 11 feet and made the putt.
From the sixth tee to “the house,” as he called it, he was five-under-par, and it was time to replace the familiar yellow Masters flag with a white one.
“It was like he had his ball on a string,” Rory McIlroy said, with an appreciative smile. “It was really impressive.”
Maybe the Masters seemed scratchy and empty without fans, but Johnson’s relentless brilliance would have silenced them anyway. Smith and Sungyae Im, the 22-year-old South Korean, tried to rein him in without success. Smith, in fact, became the first man in tournament history to put together four rounds in the 60s.
“I’ll take 15-under the rest of my career,” said the runnerup from Australia. “I might win a couple.”
Indeed, that score of 273 would have won Smith all but six of the 83 previous Masters. He shot 3-under 33 on Saturday’s back nine and hit only three fairways, and overall he scrambled successfully 18 times in 25 chances.
Johnson dumped an approach shot into a bunker on No. 2 and wound up with a disappointing par. He birdied the third but bogeyed the next two. Somewhere in there he told his brother and caddie Austin Johnson that he wanted to play the rest of the day in the dark, that he wouldn’t look at the scoreboard.
He could monitor Im, who was playing inside, and Smith was in the group ahead. McIlroy got to within five going into the back nine but promptly bogeyed No. 10.
“I didn’t want other people to affect me,” Johnson said. “I wanted to take what the course gave me. Once I got past No. 12, I felt I could breathe again.”
It was a comprehensive beatdown. Johnson hit 60 of 72 greens in regulation and sank 14 of 19 putts between 5 and 10 feet. To encapsulate it, Johnson shot 20-under-par and made only one putt of 20 or more feet all week.
It was drone golf, with pinpoint coordinates.
It was also the damage Bryson DeChambeau intended to spread, but DeChambeau couldn’t control his amazing distance and was 34th. He had said on Tuesday that 67, or five-under, was his personal Masters par. Instead, Johnson shot the equivalent of that.
“He picks the ball,” Brooks Koepka said. “He doesn’t spin it much, so he can get to those back pins. The course suited him all the way down to the ground.”
Most courses did. Since August, Johnson has hushed all debates over the identity of the world’s best player. He has won four tournaments, finished second in the PGA, lost a playoff to Jon Rahm, and won the FedEx Cup. In Boston he shot 30-under-par and won by 11.
There were other diversions. Bernhard Langer, 63, found himself playing with DeChambeau and standing nearly 100 yards behind DeChambeau’s tee shots.
“I was hitting hybrids and 3-woods into the greens,” Langer said. Still, he beat DeChambeau 71-73 on Sunday and by one for the week, and wound up 29th.
Tiger Woods suffered a seven-over-par 10 on the 12th, dumping three balls into Rae’s Creek. Then he birdied five of the final six and shot 76 to finish 36th.
“That’s golf, they don’t bring you off the mound or put in a sub,” Woods said. “It can be lonely sometimes.”
This was Johnson’s 24th victory, tying Gary Player on the PGA Tour. Everyone who has won more is in golf’s Hall of Fame. But his one major trophy, from the 2016 U.S. Open, clearly needed some company.
“He has an amazing ability to be calm in the tough moments,” Woods said.
Johnson, 36, talked of playing “8-9-10 more years” and then hanging out with his wife Paulina, who is Wayne Gretzky’s daughter, and sons Tatum (4) and River (2).
“I dream of winning a lot of majors,” Johnson said. “I’ve got to get to No. 3 first. Maybe this will give me some spring.”
Then he dropped a warning that, like so much else about him, landed softly but had big-stick implications.
“I’m not going to dial anything back,” he said.