U.S. Open notebook: Johnson close yet far after second round at Pinehurst

ablondin@thesunnews.comJune 14, 2014 

US Open Golf

Dustin Johnson watches his tee shot on the 13th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament Friday in Pinehurst, N.C.

BY DAVID GOLDMAN — The Associated Press

— Dustin Johnson shot his second consecutive 1-under-par 69 Friday in the 114th U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort’s No. 2 Course.

The first 69 Thursday put him in a tie for sixth, and the second kept him in a tie for sixth and just two shots out of second place at 2-under 138. That’s the good news.

“After two days this week, I’m really comfortable with where I’m at and just need to keep doing what I’m doing,” Johnson said. The bad news is Johnson is eight shots off the lead of Martin Kaymer, who holds shot his second consecutive 65 Friday and is at 10-under 130.

“I would have taken [2 under] on Wednesday,” Johnson said, “and no, I wouldn’t have thought it would be eight shots behind.”

The Coastal Carolina alumnus said Kaymer’s big lead won’t change his approach on the weekend. “As you all know, anything can happen in a U.S. Open,” Johnson said. “This golf course is tough. If you get just a little bit off with your driver and your irons, you’re going to have a long day.

“I’ve got a good game plan for this golf course and I’m going to stick to it no matter what. I’ll just keep trying to shoot under par around here.” Johnson began on the 10th hole Friday and made the turn at even par for his round with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 15th, and bogeys on the par-4 13th and 16th holes. He birdied the par-4 third hole, which was shortened to 315 yards, by getting up and down from a greenside bunker, saved par on the fourth from a bunker, and chipped to a couple feet on the par-5 fifth hole to reach 3 under for the tournament.

Johnson had a 25-foot birdie putt on the 245-yard par-3 sixth hole but eventually missed a par putt inside 3 feet to fall back to 2 under and made par on his final three holes, with 15-foot birdie putts on his final two.

“I definitely think I let a few opportunities slip away,” Johnson said. “I had a lot of good chances to make birdies and just a little off with the putter. I was just a fraction off and you can’t be a fraction off here.

“I missed a real short one on 6, but other than that I thought that I played really solid and put myself in good spots all day.”

A learning experience

Coastal Carolina University rising senior Andrew Dorn finished ahead of just two competitors in the U.S. Open, but the experience he gained over a week at Pinehurst Resort will in time mean a lot more than his score and finish.

Dorn shot an 80 in the second round to post a 19-over 159 and finish ahead of a pair of Japanese qualifiers.

“I’m going to take the positive outlook on it,” Dorn said. “I’m a little frustrated I didn’t play well, but it’s a learning experience. It’s my first U.S. Open so I can go from here. We’ve been saying all week this is hopefully another step in the right direction in my golf career, so I’m going to take it and run with it.”

Dorn said he learned from how the world’s top players practice and prepare in practice rounds, and discovered he needs to work on ball control with his irons and his short game in order to take the next step in his career.

“For me to compete at a level like this my short game needs to improve,” he said. “I have a lot to work on. Most of the guys here hit the ball really well, the difference is their short game between the best players and the guys who aren’t making the cut.”

Dorn began on the 10th hole Friday and three-putted his first hole for bogey and bogeyed the 11th before reeling off six pars in the next seven holes to make the turn 3 over for the round. On his final nine, four bogeys and a triple on the par-4 third, where he took an unplayable drop from a pine tree, ballooned his score. He played the back nine 4 over and front nine 15 over for the week.

Dorn, who got into the U.S. Open as an alternate from a sectional qualifier at Springfield (Ohio) Country Club, has a year of college golf remaining at CCU.

“It’s going to help so much from a confidence level of just making it here and playing here,” Dorn said. “It’s still a feat making it here. Not too many people can say they played in the U.S. Open. It’s a little bit of a confidence boost playing, and with this course setup how it is, every other course I play will probably be a little easier, I would say.”

An early gift

Spectators watching Dorn in the first two rounds of the U.S. Open might have thought his first name was Tom. That’s the name that was on his golf bag.

Tom is his father’s name, and he had it embroidered on the TaylorMade bag in place of his name as an early Father’s Day present. The equipment company gave the players it supports the option for Father’s Day.

“I figured it would be a good Father’s Day surprise for my dad,” Dorn said. “He didn’t know about it until [Wednesday]. I told him, ‘I have a surprise, you’ll just have to wait and see.’ He got a kick out of it.

“I’m not going to turn professional for a year or so, and he can use that whenever. I thought it would be cool for him to have that.”

Mistaken identity

A case of mistaken identity likely cost Hunter Mahan an opportunity to play on the weekend. He and playing partner Jamie Donaldson hit each other’s balls on their second shots in the 18th fairway, incurring two-stroke penalties.

Both Mahan and his longtime caddie, John Wood, said they thought Mahan’s ball bounced more to the left than Donaldson’s. So Wood walked to the ball that was farther left. Wood said the two players both mark balls with a form of a slash across the number.

“It was a hundred percent on me. I was the first one to the ball,” Wood said.

Donaldson saw on the green that the ball he hit from the fairway wasn’t his. “Jamie realized it at first, I think, and it started to sink in,” Wood said. “You can’t imagine yourself doing something colossally as stupid as that, but I did it. I won’t forgive myself very soon after this.”

Mahan bounced back by making a 25-foot birdie putt on the next hole, but finished at 6 over with his two-stroke penalty and missed the cut by a shot. It may have cost Mahan three shots, as he had a good look at birdie with his initial approach with Donaldson’s ball. The miscue probably didn’t cost Donaldson much, as he shot an 81 Friday.

To his credit, Mahan didn’t berate his caddie. “Hunter was great about it,” Wood said. “He was great all day. He had no reaction at all. He went back and hit a good shot and ended up turning around and birdieing 1.”

A putting shortage

It isn’t hard for Phil Mickelson to identify why he’s not contending this week to complete the career Grand Slam. “Tee to green I feel my game is strong enough to win the Open. My putter isn’t even close,” Mickelson said. “… I’m throwing away five or six shots a round. It’s really frustrating.”

Mickelson got to 2 under for the tournament with birdie putts inside 10 feet on the second and third holes, but he missed a short birdie putt on the fifth hole, three-putted the sixth and eighth, and missed several putts inside 5 feet in a round of 73 that leaves him at 3-over 143.

A distrust of his putting led Lefty to switch Friday to a conventional grip from the claw, which he implemented in the final round of the FedEx St. Jude Classic on Sunday and used in Thursday’s first round. He thought he identified a flaw with his eye line Thursday.

“So as I moved the ball away and put my eyes over the ball instead of over the top, I felt like that’s how I putted last year, so I went back to my regular grip,” he said. “I thought I was going to have a good putting day. The three-putt on 6 shook me a little bit, then 8. After that I was really fighting it.”

Cutting out

Players who missed the 5-over 145 cut by a shot at 6 over included reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Angel Cabrera, Jason Dufner and Luke Donald despite a 69 Friday.

Others missing the cut included Geoff Ogilvy, David Toms, Lucas Glover, Lee Westwood and Nick Watney.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284 or on Twitter @alanblondin, or read his blog Green Reading at myrtlebeachonline.com.

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