As the No. 2 player in the world, Dustin Johnson figures to be called upon early and often by U.S. Ryder Cup Team Captain Davis Love III this week at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn.
Johnson will try to recapture the level of play he exhibited over the past three weeks prior to the 3-over 73 he shot Sunday in the final round of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club to drop into a tie for sixth and lose his lead in FedExCup points.
Johnson had recorded eight consecutive rounds in the 60s. That stretch included a win in the BMW Championship by three strokes with a tournament-record 23-under 265, and a shared lead through 54 holes at the Tour Championship.
“My golf game is in good form. I’m looking forward to it,” Johnson said Sunday night. “I’ll work on a couple things when I get up there but overall I feel pretty confident in my golf game right now.”
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The U.S. is attempting to regain the Ryder Cup trophy for the first time since 2008 at Valhalla and just the second time since 1999.
“It's every week, but especially in the Ryder Cup it's all about making putts,” Johnson said. “You've really got to roll the putter well if you want to win your matches, if you want to win the team matches or even your individual match. But I think if I can keep putting well, then I'll be dangerous for sure.”
The event tees off Friday with four-ball and foursomes matches. Who might the Coastal Carolina alumnus be paired with in the team matches Friday and Saturday?
He hasn’t ruled out anyone, with the exception of friend Phil Mickelson, with whom he regularly plays Tuesday four-ball matches at tournaments with a little something on the line. “I love Phil and we’re great friends, but we have a lot more fun when we’re playing against each other, not as partners,” Johnson said.
The two requested a pairing at the 2010 Ryder Cup, and they were defeated 3 and 2 by Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer in four-ball, and 3 and 2 by Padraig Harrington and Ross Fisher in foursomes.
“We thought it would be great,” Johnson said. “But we didn’t play worth a damn. Played like crap.”
We thought it would be great. But we didn’t play worth a damn. Played like crap.
Dustin Johnson on being paired with Phil Mickelson in the 2010 Ryder Cup
Johnson has since paired successfully with Matt Kuchar in the Ryder Cup and Jordan Spieth in the Presidents Cup.
Johnson is 4-3-0 in his two Ryder Cups in 2010 and 2012, including 3-0 in ’12 at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago when he went 2-0 in four-ball matches with Kuchar, and is 4-1-0 when not playing with Mickelson.
“We've talked about it, and there are a couple other guys that I might could pair up with, too,” Johnson said. “I think I can partner well with pretty much anyone, except for Phil.”
Evolution of the cut
A swing adjustment that allows Johnson to hit a slight fade with his driver and select irons shots rather than the draw he had hit since youth has helped Johnson contend more regularly.
“I feel like now I'm playing consistently better golf. A lot of it started when I started hitting a cut off the tee and then cutting most of my iron shots,” Johnson said. “It just is a little bit easier for me to hit and definitely replicate over and over. My timing doesn't have to be spot on for me to hit a cut shot. I can still get away with some misses that still turn out to be pretty good shots … Even if I'm not swinging my best, I feel like I can still compete.”
Johnson described the process he and swing instructor Butch Harmon have used to put his fade in play more. Johnson started working with Harmon in 2010.
“Ever since we first started working together … that was one thing we worked on was hitting a cut shot. It took me a little while to finally hit one at a golf tournament. If I was at home practicing, I could hit it no problem. But if I'm standing in the middle of the fairway, it was hard for me to see a cut shot.
“A couple years ago, it was during the offseason, I was struggling a little bit and so I just said, ‘I'm going to just cut it.’ I started playing a cut just on every shot, just in the offseason, and I think a few days in a row I shot like 62, 61, 62 or something, three days in a row, playing a cut shot, and I said, ‘I guess it worked, so I'll keep on trying it.’ ”
He doesn’t believe the cut gave him a particular strategic advantage at East Lake, where he was 10-under with 24 holes to play before dropping to 5 under.
“It's fairly straight, and a lot of the holes are really straight,” Johnson said. “So it doesn't really matter which way you shape it. For me, I feel like I hit more fairways playing a cut, but that's on any golf course, not just this one.”
Johnson grew up a fast player.
But the PGA Tour will beat that out of a pro the same way the spring golf season on a public course in Myrtle Beach will beat it out of an amateur.
Johnson now generally plays more deliberately, particularly on greens, where he’ll often look at putts from several different angles before addressing the ball.
He joined the tour in 2008 and estimates he found a way to slow down a bit during the 2010 season.
“I mean, the guys out here play so slow,” Johnson said. “So me playing fast, like I feel like I'm playing really slow right now, and I still play faster than most of the guys out here.
“It took me a while before I could slow myself down, but now I feel like I’ve got a good routine and a good pre-shot routine that I try to stick to, and it just keeps me a little bit slower. I try to walk a little bit slower. Sometimes I have to slow myself down because I tend to walk really fast. You know, I'll catch myself and slow down.”
TaylorMade announced last week it has extended the equipment sponsorships of Johnson and world No. 1 Jason Day, who will continue to play their golf clubs.
TaylorMade says it first signed Johnson in December 2007, a few months after his senior year at Coastal Carolina, which had an arrangement with the equipment manufacturer.
Evolve opens EC2
Evolve Golf opened the EC2 – Evolve Creation Center – in Wilmington, N.C., last week.
The company makes the popular Epoch golf tee and was founded in 2004 by chief executive officer B.J. Maloy out of his home in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.
The new EC2 is producing a line of hand-forged ball markers and pitch repair tools based on a patented single-prong design, and Evolve Golf also has a new line of performance wool socks and headcovers. The products are being made in collaboration with a local foundry and local mill, are integrating technologies like 3D printing with old world blacksmithing methods, and have personalization capabilities.
Evolve Golf mass produces Epoch tees in Zebulon, N.C., and if they have a design or wording they are printed in Greenville. The tees are prevalent on the PGA Tour and throughout amateur golf.
The tee has radius posts that span the width of a golf ball dimple, creating what Maloy says is the lowest coefficient of friction of any tee, eliminating deflection at impact and increasing ball speed and control.
The Epoch tee is environmentally friendly, as it is made from recycled materials, is significantly more durable than wooden tees and is less harmful to mower blades.
True Blue Golf Club and the King’s North Course at Myrtle Beach National recently got some ink from Golf Advisor in an article featuring island greens titled “Carry the water: The best island greens in destination golf, from East Lake to Sawgrass and beyond.”
The par-3 third hole at True Blue and par-3 11th hole at the King’s North Course, which features two bunkers forming the initials “SC” for South Carolina, were among 16 holes identified.
The sixth/15th hole at East Lake Golf Club, site of the Tour Championship, and 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, site of The Players Championship, were included in the list, along with holes in Alabama, Florida, Nevada, Idaho, California, Arizona, Washington state, Mexico and France.
The two-man teams of Doug Hanzel and Bob Royak, and Thomas Hunter and Charles Ipock qualified Monday at The Reserve Club in Pawleys Island for the third annual U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. The national championship will be played May 27-31, 2017 at Pinehurst Country Club in Pinehurst, N.C.
The two teams shot 65s. After a three-hole playoff at 66, Arjun Puri and Colton Tanner are first alternates and Andy Crain and Jason Martin are second alternates from the 46-team qualifier.