Golf

Dustin Johnson hopes 2018 Masters much better than Masters that never was

Dustin Johnson hits from a bunker on the second hole at Augusta National Golf Club on Wednesday during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga.
Dustin Johnson hits from a bunker on the second hole at Augusta National Golf Club on Wednesday during a practice round for the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga. AP

It’s been a year since Dustin Johnson suffered “a serious fall on a staircase in his Augusta rental home” the day before he was supposed to dominate the 2017 Masters.

Everyone at Augusta National Golf Club still seems to want to talk about it. Johnson, the 33-year-old Coastal Carolina alumnus and world’s No. 1 golfer, still does not particularly.

“I get asked it every day out here on the range or walking down the fairway so I’m reminded all the time,” Johnson said. “So, yeah, I’m definitely thinking about it [this week]. It is what it is. It was kind of just a freak thing and it happened, there's nothing I can do about it except I'm here this year, hopefully I can tee it up on Thursday, and definitely be looking forward to that.”

The Columbia native and Dutch Fork High School product was the runaway favorite entering last year’s event until Wednesday afternoon, less than 24 hours before he was to tee off, when his agent David Winkle released a statement saying Johnson had fallen on a staircase and “landed very hard on his lower back.” At the time of the statement, there still was hope he would play, but after an attempted warmup on Thursday, he withdrew.

Asked what he planned to do this Wednesday, Johnson replied, “Take it real easy.”

Johnson had won three consecutive events heading into last year’s Masters. This season, he has four top 10s and one victory (the Sentry Tournament of Champions in January) in six starts.

“I know what it takes to get it done in a major, and it's never easy,” Johnson said. “I've been in this situation quite a few times where I've had a chance to win, and no matter what you do or how you prepare, it's not easy to win. This week's going to be no different. My preparation's been very good, though, I think leading into this week.”

Johnson was off last week and said he spent Tuesday and Wednesday at Augusta National, then returned Sunday to complete his Masters preparation.

Until last year’s injury, Johnson was trending in the right direction at Augusta National. He finished a career-best tied for sixth in 2015 and then topped that by tying for fourth in 2016. That came after an average finish of 30th from 2010-2013 before a missed cut in 2014.

“The more you play here, kind of the more comfortable you get around this golf course, you know what tee shots and where to hit it and the flags and kind of how to attack the golf course, so that plays a part in it,” he said. “Then I think just me as a golfer getting better and just all throughout the whole game, just having more confidence, hitting it better, driving it better, doing everything a little bit better always helps around here.”

Johnson will be going for his second career major to pair with the 2016 U.S. Open. This year, he’ll have to get past a rejuvenated Tiger Woods, who was dominating the game as Johnson was learning the game and is going for his 15th career major.

“As far as giving me more juice, no, it doesn't do that,” Johnson said of Woods’ presence as a contender this week. “I don't think I need any for this week, but, yeah, it's good for the game of golf, absolutely.”

Johnson is scheduled to tee off at 2 p.m. in Thursday’s first round with 2017 Masters runner-up Justin Rose and Rafael Cabrera-Bello.

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