Golf

How will Dustin Johnson follow up his eight-stroke win? He tees it up in Abu Dhabi

Coastal Carolina alumnus Dustin Johnson plays a bunker on the 10th hole during a pro-am Wednesday in advance of the Abu Dhabi Championship golf tournament in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Coastal Carolina alumnus Dustin Johnson plays a bunker on the 10th hole during a pro-am Wednesday in advance of the Abu Dhabi Championship golf tournament in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. AP

How will Dustin Johnson follow up the most lopsided victory of his pro career?

That question will be answered this weekend as Johnson tees it up overseas against a good field in the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship beginning Thursday in the United Arab Emirates.

The Coastal Carolina alumnus and world’s top-ranked player is coming off an eight-stroke victory in the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii on Jan. 7.

“I definitely got off to a really good start,” Johnson said of his win in Hawaii. “ … Hopefully I can play as well as I did in Hawaii.”

Johnson finished tied for second behind Tommy Fleetwood in his first appearance in Abu Dhabi last year.

“I felt like this golf course suits me pretty well and I like the setup of it,” Johnson said. “Last year was the first time being here, so obviously playing four rounds in the tournament definitely helps. This year, I know the course a little bit better, so we'll see.”

Johnson, 33, has a win and tie for second in two official PGA Tour events this season dating back to the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in late October, where he took a six-shot lead into the final round.

Johnson is looking to regain the form and vibe he had about this time last year. Johnson got hot early in 2017 and took a three-tournament win streak into the Masters in early April, when he slipped on stairs and injured his back on the eve of the opening round.

Johnson won once more last year, in The Northern Trust, which opened the 2017 playoffs.

“Since Augusta, I kind of struggled for a little while,” Johnson said. “But kind of from the playoffs through now, the golf game is starting to get back into the form it was, you know, to this time last year where I had a really good run leading into Augusta.

“So it’s definitely good. I've been working hard on the game, but the golf swing feels like it's finally getting back to where it was.”

Others in a field that includes three of the top 10 players in the world are Fleetwood, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Matt Kuchar, Paul Casey and Martin Kaymer.

“If I do all the right things for the next few days, then I definitely will have a chance when it comes Sunday,” Johnson said. “… There's a lot of great players in the field, so you know, I could have a really good week and still lose.”

Johnson said following his pre-tournament press conference on Wednesday that he will try to make an appearance at his junior tournament at the TPC Myrtle Beach from Feb. 22-25, the third Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship, though likely just for a day if his schedule permits.

Alan Blondin: 843-626-0284, @alanblondin

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