Sports

On Your Mark: Johnson seeks redemption, football in full swing

Dustin Johnson hits from the rough on the first hole during the third round of the Bridgestone Invitational golf tournament at Firestone Country Club. The CCU alumnus returns to Whistling Straits this week looking for redemption and his first major title.
Dustin Johnson hits from the rough on the first hole during the third round of the Bridgestone Invitational golf tournament at Firestone Country Club. The CCU alumnus returns to Whistling Straits this week looking for redemption and his first major title. AP

Well, the first three majors of the year are behind us, and there have been many intriguing storylines as the best golfers in the world descend upon Whistling Straits for the PGA Championship, beginning Thursday.

Jordan Spieth lit the golf world on fire with a record-setting win at the Masters to start the year. He then followed up with a U.S. Open Championship title, only to have a bogey on the 71st hole of the British Open at St. Andrews leave him one shot out of a playoff, dashing his grand slam hopes.

Zach Johnson would go on to outlast Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff for his second career major title; Spieth still has a chance to be the first player to win all three U.S. titles in a calendar year.

The return of Rory McIlroy will also add intrigue. The world No. 1 missed out on defending his title at the British Open, but will make his return to competitive golf this weekend after recovering from an ankle injury.

However, possibly the most compelling storyline is CCU alumnus Dustin Johnson, and his last opportunity this year to dispel a label that can haunt even the tour's most talented: “The best player to never win a major.”

It's easy to forget, but before Phil Mickelson – who turned into a shoo-in for the hall of fame and was inducted in 2012 – became a 5-time major champion, he was probably the most notable for his failures to capture one of the illustrious trophies.

Much like Mickelson, it's not that Johnson has failed to win – it's how.

In the 2010 U.S. Open he held a three-stroke lead entering the final round only to shoot an 82 and finish tied for 8th. Most recently he had an eagle putt to steal the U.S. Open at Chambers bay this year, only to three-putt and surrender the title to Spieth. At the British Open he jumped out to the 36-hole lead – looking dominant, even – only to shoot 75-75 on the weekend.

And maybe even the most dubious was at the very course he'll be playing at this weekend. In the final round of the 2010 PGA Championship and in contention, he grounded his club in a bunker he didn’t know existed and took a two-shot penalty. Oh, and he missed the playoff by two strokes.

It would only be fitting for the Columbia native to get that weight off his back and a little redemption at the same time, but he'll have to shake off the late-round woes and close well, ideally by building a big enough lead in the early rounds so he can be largely pressure free later on, a la Spieth in his Masters victory earlier this year.

Oh, and despite what his often ho-hum demeanor might lead you to believe, winning this season and shedding that dreaded label almost certainly means everything to the 31-year-old bomber.

NFL: So it begins

While the NFL preseason technically began Sunday with the Hall of Fame Game featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings, the rest of the preseason slate begins in earnest on Thursday.

The Carolina Panthers – whose training camp continues at Wofford College in Spartanburg until Aug. 20 – officially open up their schedule at 7 p.m. Friday at the Buffalo Bills (WWMB).

Now, don't expect a large dose of star players – if any – but hey, somebody's gonna hit somebody. All 32 teams will be in action this week.

Kickoff classic

The 26th Conway National Bank Classic, the area’s annual high school football kickoff event, will be held this Friday, beginning at 6 p.m.

It will be the first look at some of the area teams in uniform, albeit in pared down action. This year's event will be held at Conway High School, and will feature Myrtle Beach vs. Aynor; Socastee vs. Waccamaw; Green Sea Floyds vs. St. James; Carolina Forest vs. Loris; and North Myrtle Beach vs. Conway.

The scrimmages are the final warm-up and mark just one week remaining before regular season games begin.

Of note

The Sun News' high school football preview slate is officially off and running. If you're looking for your team, here's the day you can check out each team: Tuesday, Loris; Wednesday, Waccamaw; Thursday, Georgetown; Firday, Myrtle Beach; Saturday, North Myrtle Beach; Sunday, St. James. The series continues through Aug. 19. ... The Myrtle Beach Pelicans are on the road for a three-game set against Salem from Aug. 11-13, but return for a four-game set with Lynchburg Friday-Sunday.

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