Dustin Johnson earned a hug from playing partner Jason Day on the 18th hole Friday, and he may have needed it based on his mounting frustration with Quail Hollow Club’s difficult greens.
Johnson shot a 3-over-par 74 in the second round of the 99th PGA Championship to drop from a tie for 15th at 1 under to a tie for 31st at 2-over 144.
The Coastal Carolina alumnus is 127th in the field in the category of strokes gained putting, and for the second consecutive day the longest putt he made was 7 feet.
“It’s frustrating for sure,” Johnson said. “I feel like I’m hitting good putts. It’s not like I’m hitting bad ones … it’s just not going in the hole. My speed’s a little bit off. I’m struggling with the speed on them.”
Never miss a local story.
Regarding the hug, that was earned for teeing off on the 18th hole just prior to the horn sounding to suspend play due to darkness. A one-hour, 40-minute rain delay had the threesome of Johnson, Day and Henrik Stenson pushing daylight.
Johnson volunteered to play quickly and tee off. He nestled a 34-foot putt inside a foot to make par, then raced to the 18th tee and hit a 310-yard drive in the fairway while Stenson and Day finished the 17th hole. They teed off about five minutes after Johnson did.
“On 17 I was off the green, and we were walking up, and we were talking about like if we can get a tee shot on 18, we could finish the round. And DJ is like, ‘I'll do it,’ ” Day said. “I'm like, ‘Oh, just hopefully he either holes [his putt] or hits it stone-dead,’ and he did, and then he ran out there and teed off.
“… I just walked up to him and said, ‘That's the biggest, or most clutch thing I've ever seen anyone do for me.’ I had to give him a hug for it.”
I just walked up to him and said, ‘That's the biggest, or most clutch thing I've ever seen anyone do for me.’ I had to give him a hug for it.
Day is alone in third place, so he would have had to finish his round beginning at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, then return for a mid-afternoon tee time. Johnson had no intention of coming to the course that early, either.
“We knew the horn was going to be blown any second,” Johnson said. “As long as one guy in the group tees off you can finish. So that was a big help for all of us because now we get to sleep in.”
Johnson bogeyed the third, fifth and sixth holes before making a birdie on the short par-4 eighth. He played the back nine 1 over with a bogey on the 16th, where he left a 43-foot birdie putt 13 feet short.
“They were really fast, then after the rain I left a couple short right in the middle,” Johnson said. “Then I go ahead and hit one and burns the top side and goes 6 feet by. I’m struggling with the speeds on them.”
Johnson didn’t drive the ball as consistently Friday, hitting just six of 14 fairways after hitting 11 fairways in regulation Thursday, though he still managed to hit 13 of 18 greens. He was just 2 of 5 scrambling, accounting for three of his four bogeys.
“I feel I’m swinging well and hitting a lot of good shots, I just definitely need to roll in a few putts,” Johnson said. “If I can go out and shoot a good score tomorrow morning I can get back in this golf tournament.”