DJ never wants to watch a major from his couch again

By Doug FergusonApril 11, 2017, 8:00 pm

Dustin Johnson was back on the stationary bike, moving forward without really going anywhere.

The good news for golf's No. 1 player is that an MRI showed only a deep bruise on the left side of his lower back. If doctors had taken images a little higher up the torso, they also might have seen a slight tear in his heart.

"One thing I never want to have to do again," Johnson said Tuesday, "is watch a major from my couch."

At least he watched. And it wasn't all bad.

He was thrilled to see Sergio Garcia overcome a two-shot deficit in the Masters and two decades of frustrations in the majors. Johnson could relate to that, having been in position to win a major four times before winning the U.S. Open last summer at Oakmont.

Good luck finding someone who can relate to Johnson's experience at the 81st Masters.

Sure, there have been times when a No. 1 player had to withdraw from a major. But not when the player was coming off three straight victories against the strongest fields of the year. Not when that player was five minutes and 20 yards from the first tee.

And never has an injury to a No. 1 player been so bizarre on so many levels.

He had finished his final nine holes of practice Wednesday before the storms rolled in. Johnson had gone to the gym and had just returned to his rented house at Augusta when it started raining and he wanted to move his car.

Wearing only socks, he slipped down the staircase, crashing onto his back and left elbow.

"It was terrible," Johnson said. "And the weirdest part is, I never walk around in socks. For some reason if I walk around barefooted, my left foot starts to hurt. That's why I always have shoes on. But I just got back from the gym and wanted to run down and move the car over. And I slipped."

Johnson said it was the worst pain he has ever felt.

"I thought I broke my back in half," he said. "I really thought my back was broken."

He still thought about playing when he left the practice range Thursday, only to realize on the putting green that he couldn't. Johnson said he was hitting his 4-iron about 200 yards in the air (it usually flies 235 yards) and he had no idea which direction the ball was going until he hit it. Over the next 15 minutes, on the cart ride to the putting green and a few more full swings between putts, reality won out.

"The more I thought about it, there was no chance," he said. "It just took a while to convince myself."

There was a small measure of relief that tests revealed only a bruise. When he flew home to Florida, he said, his lower back hurt for two days. Now it's in a confined area near the bruise. He has returned to a routine, which includes work in the gym.

"I'm not really doing much," Johnson said. "Today I started moving a little bit. Yesterday I did a little bit of chest and arms. Moving up and down, I'm fine. If I'm twisting, it's a little sore. And I'm making some swings, but I'm not hitting any balls."

As bad as the timing was, it could have been worse.

Johnson had scheduled the next three weeks off, so there will be no temptation to play before he is fully recovered. His next tournament is the Wells Fargo Championship that starts May 4, the first of three in a row.

And while it hurt to watch the Masters on TV, it felt good to see Garcia win.

"Sergio and I are friends," he said. "I was rooting for him. It was cool to see him get that first one. I know a little bit of what he's been through. He'd been close quite a few times, just like I had been close. It took him a lot longer."

People talk about how it takes time for that first major to sink in. Johnson might never grasp his unfortunate turn of events, even for someone who has dealt with his share of setbacks.

In a 2015 interview, when asked his biggest disappointment, Johnson said, "I've had a lot of (stuff) happen to be me, but I came out better on the other side."

His short memory might be one of his great assets.

For all blunders on the golf course that he quickly forgets about, this one shouldn't be much different. He is still playing the best golf of his life. He still has a chance at his next tournament for a fourth straight PGA Tour victory, which would be the longest streak since Tiger Woods, who won five straight over six months.

"One reason I'm good at golf is because I try not to let it bother me," Johnson said. "It sucks. It sucks right now. But I woke up this morning, and it was a good day."

And he still has a large collection of trophies at home.

Johnson laughed.

"That doesn't hurt," he said.

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Ortiz takes Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

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Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.

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Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

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McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

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What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x