The Lone Star State has long been known for its mantra – “Everything is bigger in Texas.” Yet, on a surprisingly calm Sunday afternoon in Fort Worth, it was something very small that almost decided the 2012 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.
A tiny little coin.
Zach Johnson rolled in a five-footer for par on eighteen, pumping his fist, celebrating with his family, and even doing a television interview.
However, Johnson had moved his ball marker out of the way so Jason Dufner could have a clear line to putt. The problem was Johnson never replaced his mark before putting, resulting in a two-stroke penalty and a one-shot victory instead of three.
Had he missed that putt, his sportsmanship would have inadvertently contributed to a shocking and rather embarrassing playoff.
Or worse, if Dufner had been one swing better with the putter on the par-four 15th. Or with the driver. Or with the wedge.
It was an uncharacteristic blow up hole by Dufner that distanced what had been an airtight margin between them for much of the day. There were four two-stroke swings between the two.
On the tee at fifteen, the typically accurate Dufner found a fairway bunker, which saw him drop the club in frustration. His bunker shot landed wide of the green and ran down and into the water. His pitch flew the hole by some 17 yards, and his four-footer for double-bogey broke left and missed wide for a back-breaking triple.
Missed fairways off the tee were a bugaboo for Dufner, as he hit only twenty-one percent of fairways (3 of 14) on Sunday.
Johnson also scrambled at times, but got the fortunate break and made the key putt when he needed it most.
Both happened at the par-five 11th.
Johnson’s tee shot faded into the trees, which kicked out into the middle of the fairway. Dufner’s drive was swallowed up by the same trees, leading to a punch shot under the trees and an eventual bogey. Johnson had to lay up, but made an 18-footer for birdie.
Johnson also made 28-foot birdie on number two. He averaged the fewest number of putts per round for the tournament with 25.5.
For Johnson, it’s his second plaid jacket in the last three years, and his fourth straight top-ten finish at Colonial. By earning his eighth PGA Tour win, he joins Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Vijay Singh as the only tour players since 2004 to have eight wins and a major championship to their names.
If Johnson can keep his hot streak going – second-place finishes at the RBC Heritage and Players Championship – he should be a prime candidate to contend at the U.S. Open next month at Olympic Club, where driving accuracy is typically at a premium.