RORY McILROY stopped the rot in Memphis, but his final warm-up for his US Open title defence this week still ended on a bitterly disappointing note.
Northern Ireland’s world number three (pictured) had missed the cut on his three previous starts, so to be joint leader with one hole to play at the FedEx St Jude Classic was a massive boost in confidence.
Then came a hook into the lake off the final tee, a missed four-foot putt and a double-bogey six that dropped him to only joint seventh.
McIlroy was not too downhearted by his late collapse, though.
“I saw a lot of positive signs this week,” he said. “I got in a good position after 11 holes of the final round and hit a couple of shots coming in, but, you know, overall it’s still a pretty good week.
“I’m looking forward to getting to San Francisco and I can take a lot into next week.
“I said in the early part of the week, if I got into contention that was great. I did that. I feel like I’m well prepared going into the US Open.”
Dustin Johnson is the one who flies north-west in the best of moods.
He birdied two of |the last three for a closing 66 and a one-stroke win over fellow American John Merrick in only his second event back from an injury that kept him out of action for nearly three months.
Johnson missed The Masters after aggravating his back lifting a jet ski at his home, not returning until the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago.
“It feels really good, especially having so much time off,” said Johnson, the first player since Tiger Woods to win in each of his first five seasons on the PGA Tour.
“I wasn’t worried about the US Open today – I was worried about the FedEx. Next is a whole different week.”
The 27-year-old Ryder Cup player slipped to 21st in the world during his absence, but leaps back into the top 10 on the eve of the season’s second major.
There will be a lot of attention on whether number one Luke Donald and number three Lee Westwood – a five-shot winner in Sweden on Saturday – can end their waits for a first major, but Johnson has had his near-misses too. He led the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach by three with a round to play, but slumped to an 82 as Graeme McDowell triumphed.
Two months later he was poised for a play-off in the USPGA Championship, but was penalised two strokes after he finished for grounding a club in a rough sandy area that was deemed to be a bunker by the final fairway.