Herrmann has covered the Mets and Yankees since 1988, and has been Newsday’s national golf writer since 2002.
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. - Anyone who has dramatically lost a major golf championship needs to have an inner dialogue that ends with, "This is not the end of the world," or some other fib just like it.
All right, so it isn't technically the end of the world, but it sure feels like it when you've thrown away a lead on the last hole or two, or when you do something silly like breaking the rules by mistakenly grounding your club in the bunker and incurring a two-stroke penalty. That is what Dustin Johnson did the last time the PGA Championship was held here at Whistling Straits.
Now that Johnson and the PGA are back, so is the feeling that this place is the home office for heartache. He and a few other golfers are here, trying to forget the unforgettable. In golf, you have no choice.
"Obviously, when you get that close, you do look at a few things," said Louis Oosthuizen, who comes into the PGA off a playoff loss in the British Open. Sure there was a stroke here or there during 72 holes that could have made all the difference in the world. "Obviously there were putts being missed. But that happens. That's golf."
Bubba Watson could have had an earlier start on his major title collection had he not hit a shot into the water on No. 18 five years ago, losing a playoff in the tournament that Johnson basically forfeited by not reading the rules about what constitutes a bunker here.
Watson said yesterday that he nonetheless has good memories about that week. A golfer has to think that way if he wants to win the next time he is in a major playoff -- as he did, against Oosthuizen at the 2012 Masters.
"I'm a golfer, I'm human and I think about negative stuff," Watson said. "You've got to remember it's golf. You're going to have good days and bad days. You're going to have bad days if you shoot free throws if you're a basketball player, bad days at the plate if you're a baseball player."
Even Jordan Spieth has cause for regret this week, having lost his grip on a lead late in the fourth round at St Andrews and costing himself a shot at becoming the first to win the modern Grand Slam.
But nobody has as much mental erasing to do as Johnson. Not counting his heartbreaks at other tournaments, especially this year's U.S. Open, he has to overcome the thought of losing the Wanamaker Trophy because he didn't realize he was in a bunker on No. 18. Worse yet, he didn't find out he was penalized until after he finished what appeared to have been a life-changing victorious round.
"Dustin's locker was next to mine, for obvious reasons," said current British Open champion Zach Johnson, referring to the alphabetical setup in locker rooms. "I consoled him the best I could. What do you say? He was upset, clearly, as he should be. But his attitude was actually pretty good."
Dustin Johnson, who will have a news conference Wednesday, was awash in high-fives and fans' love during his practice round Tuesday. After his long tee shot on No. 10, an admiring spectator said that the ball went so far, "It's not fair!"
The key to golf is not letting yourself think that bad breaks and sad endings are signs that life isn't fair.
Long Island pro Ben Polland, the 25-year-old Deepdale assistant, lost the national club pros' tournament with a double bogey on the last hole. His consolation was that he qualified for the PGA Championship anyway by finishing among the top 20. Plus, he knows that stuff like that just happens.
"It didn't really seem like that big a deal at the time. You win tournaments, you lose tournaments," he said. "I know it happened kind of abruptly but it's not the biggest thing in the world."