Dustin Johnson surprised the golf world by coming out at the British Open on fire.
Johnson leads the pack after Round One at seven-under. He had five birdies and one eagle without a single bogey.
It comes less than a month after a brutal meltdown on the 18th green at the US Open. Johnson missed a long putt that would have won the tournament, then missed his next putt to tie, ceding the title to Jordan Spieth.
Johnson has often had trouble closing out tournaments — he lost the 2010 U.S. Open after holding a three-shot lead going into the final round. Heading into the British Open, Johnson explained why he skipped the trophy presentation — “I had had enough. It was time to get out of there” — and said he cleared his head afterward with a family vacation.
A month later he seems to be back on track:
Dustin Johnson is tied for the lead. Clearly no hangover from last month’s U.S. Open heartbreak.
— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelESPN) July 16, 2015
Golfer Zach Johnson explained to Garrett Johnson of Myrtle Beach Online how Dustin Johnson has been so resilient:
“When he’s coming off a debacle or mistake he still gets himself back into contention, and clearly that’s what you have to do as an athlete. That’s what you certainly have to do as golfer. Clearly Dustin has that trait, which is tremendous because it’s not the easiest thing to find or even bring out.
“He’s got that mental ability to forget about whether it was last week, two weeks ago. He can forget about the last thing, whatever sort of debacle, he can bring his game right back up and get back into contention. Part of it is because he’s just a freak talent.”
Though Dustin is still lacking his first major, he’s been one of the top competitors in golf for several years now. As European Tour member Joost Luiten told Garrett, it’s only a matter of time until Dustin wins one.
“He’s such a great player, he will win majors,” he said. “He’s so young and he can overpower golf courses. He’s so good. He will win majors and no one will think about that anymore.”
Adding to the intrigue of Johnson’s early lead is that he’s been paired with Spieth, who trails him by just two shots. Spieth noted after the first round that he’ll have to play his best and be more tactical to match Dustin’s strength:
“If D.J. keeps driving it the way he is, then I’m going to have to play my best golf to have a chance… I’ve played enough golf with him to where I believe in my skill set, that I can still trump that crazy ability that he has. I expect when he stands on the tee it’s going to up there miles and down the fairway. I also expect that I can birdie each hole when I stand on the tee — it just happens to be a different route.”
Of course, given Johnson’s history of collapsing down the stretch, he’ll have to prove that he can handle the pressure of the next three rounds. He holds a slim lead heading into Round Two, when the weather is expected to take a turn for the worse, but that early lead could be huge for Johnson’s confidence in getting over a disastrous finish at the US Open.
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