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Did Johnson’s U.S. Open loss overshadow Spieth’s win?

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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Dustin Johnson three putts the 18th hole during the final round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Sunday, June 21, 2015 in University Place, Washington (Credit: AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

The U.S. Open has the well-earned reputation of often being among the most difficult majors in the PGA. It is often played on the most treacherous and bunker-filled courses in the country and this year’s tournament was no different. For more on the course, see Mark Cook’s The U.S. Open and facing life’s challenges.

However, while bunkers, narrow fairways, and unpredictable winds made Chamber’s Bay difficult, it was the poor conditions on most of the greens that quickly became the main story. The problem was that many of the greens were composed of two different types of grass, neither of which had responded overly well to the Pacific Northwest’s unusually dry climate recently. As a result, the ball would change speed and direction without warning as it transitioned from one type to the next. Some players even went so far as to compare it to putting on broccoli, though Rory McIlroy, the top ranked player in the world, was quick to point out that it bore a closer resemblance to cauliflower as at least broccoli was green.

All of that criticism came to a head on Sunday afternoon when Dustin Johnson, who entered the final round tied with Jordan Spieth and 2 others for the lead, was faced with a 13 foot eagle putt to win the tournament on the 18th green. It was a difficult shot but he hit it fairly well, leaving himself four feet from forcing an 18 hole playoff with Spieth on Monday. The putt would go just wide and Johnson would go from potential champion to hard-luck runner up.

As one might expect, much of the coverage following the tournament has centered more on Johnson’s missed putts than Spieth’s gutsy victory. Spieth overcame a late bogey and a missed eagle putt of his own on the 18th to enter the clubhouse one shot up as Johnson approached the final green. His victory makes Spieth only the fourth golfer to ever win the Masters and the U.S. Open in the same calendar year, adding his growing legacy to that of Tiger Woods, Jack Nicholas, Arnold Palmer, and Craig Wood. At 21 years old he’s also by far the youngest to accomplish the feat and the youngest player to win the U.S. Open since 1923.

Which will you remember more when thinking back on the 2015 U.S. Open? Will it be Spieth’s victory of Johnson’s defeat? In truth, the two will likely remain inextricably linked because each helps to define the other. In competition, victory necessitates defeat and there’s really no getting around that. My youth minister growing up used to say that we’re all winners here, just some more than others. While there is some truth to that I suppose, I doubt it makes Johnson feel any better this morning to remember that he placed higher than over 150 other players this past weekend.

Competition can be a great thing when it drives us to become better. However, a line is crossed when our identities begin to be defined by our wins and losses. Scripture is clear that our identities in Christ are secure (1 John 3:1-2) and, while it may sound trite or clichéd, to say that, it is an important fact to be reminded of from time to time.

Whatever your competition is, whether it’s at work, school, your community, or even in your family, remember who you are in Christ and never doubt that your personal wins and losses pale in comparison to the victory Christ has won on your behalf. There is great freedom in that truth. Have you accepted it today?