When a golf heckler gets challenged by a major championship winner, it’s time to put up or shut up.
David Johnson did that and more Thursday in front of some of the best golfers on the planet and a full-sized gallery at the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Course in Chaska, making the first pressure putt of the event, even if it was just for laughs.
“He putt up,” said Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, the European team member who issued the challenge.
The dare came after Johnson a 30-year-old fan from Mayville, N.D., couldn’t restrain himself as he and thousands of other fans watched Europe’s Rory McIlroy and Andy Sullivan repeatedly miss a 12-foot putt on the eighth green during a Thursday practice session.
Johnson called out from the gallery, letting the group of European Ryder Cup players hear about it. Stenson responded by inviting Johnson to come out to the putting surface and show the world how it’s done.
For good measure, Justin Rose plopped down a $100 bill.
Using Sullivan’s putter — about 10 inches shorter than what Johnson is used to — Johnson gave the putt a speedy ride toward the cup.
“A little pacey,” he said later. “It was the putt I wanted to hit, just not the right speed.”
Cruising on Hazeltine’s Ryder Cup-ready greens, the ball rammed the back of the cup and dropped in.
Johnson broke out into an odd version of the chicken dance amid a roar from the crowd, followed by hugs and handshakes from the four pros.
“It was poetry in motion,” said Stenson, this year’s British Open champ. “If it doesn’t hit the back of the cup, it’s rolling all the way to fringe.”
McIlroy said if it hadn’t rolled in, it would have been a lost ball.
“That’s all the way in the water if it misses,” he said.
Instead, Johnson became an instant internet sensation. McIlroy, the third-ranked golfer in the world, tweeted the putt from his verified account, and murmurs of the feat wafted through the Hazeltine gallery like smoke from the hot dog grills.
Chalk one up for the everyman. “He’s the man of the hour, the day, the week,” Stenson said. “The boys were struggling with the line so Dave here offered to come out and show us how to do it. And he certainly did; drilled that 12-footer right in the back of the cup.
“Now he can tell the whole world that the European team are the ones that have the most fun.”
Johnson said he doesn’t plan to spend the $100 bill (the pros signed it). Instead, it’ll go in “a very expensive frame.”
Will any other mouthy fans get the same chance this weekend? “There will be a few more [fans] with a few more words I am sure,” Stenson said. “We’ll bring plenty of $100s.”
At top, David Johnson, center, reacted gleefully Thursday after sinking a putt on a $100 dare by Europe's Justin Rose at the Ryder Cup. (Photo by Peter Byrne of Zuma Press)