DJ looks like old self during practice round at Torrey

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 4, 2015, 12:08 am

SAN DIEGO – That unmistakable Dustin Johnson saunter is back.

The eight-time winner was happy to be back on the course Tuesday at the Farmers Insurance Open, where he warmed up for his first start since he took a leave of absence to deal with “personal challenges” at the end of July.

When he tees it up at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday at Torrey Pines’ South Course, Johnson will be six months and five days removed from his last start. reported that Johnson was actually suspended six months by the PGA Tour because of a third failed drug test, but the 30-year-old has denied those allegations.

The whispers may follow him for months, but most important moving forward is how he performs and acts.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Johnson said that he’s recommitted himself to the gym and that he hasn’t touched vodka, his main vice, in months.

“Over these past four of five months I’ve really grown up,” he told the magazine, “and I’m starting to become the person I want my kids to look up to.”

As for his golf, it’s easy to forget that Johnson was in the midst of a career year before he departed. In 17 starts, he won once (WGC-HSBC Champions), finished runner-up twice and had five other top 10s, amassing more than $4.2 million in earnings.

Whether he’ll be able to continue that form this week at Torrey Pines remains to be seen.

His long game looked plenty sharp Tuesday, with high, booming drives and crisp iron play. On the 614-yard 13th, Johnson hit a massive drive and long iron to 4 feet. On the 230-yard 16th, his high draw settled 5 feet from the cup. And he had more than enough power to get home in two on the 570-yard 18th, even with the tees all the way back.

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During a quiet practice round that was closed to the public, Johnson acknowledged tournament volunteers and seemed genuinely happy to scribble his name on flags, hats and balls.

“It’s been a little while,” he said after the round, “but I’m excited to be out here again.”

A return to Tour life isn’t the only adjustment for Johnson. He and fiancée Paulina Gretzky also became parents on Jan. 19, to son Tatum.

“It’s the best thing in the world,” he said of fatherhood. “I couldn’t be happier. I couldn’t be more excited about the future.”

Johnson made the three-hour drive Monday from Los Angeles, where he and Gretzky have rented a house near her parents. During his time away Johnson has stayed sharp with near-daily games with former NHL legend Wayne Gretzky.

“Now, being a father just puts things in perspective,” he said. “I love playing the game, but I’ve got things that are a lot more important now. It actually takes a bit more pressure off the golf. It’s just fun to be a part of his life.”

Johnson intends to jump right back into his regular Tour schedule. This is his first of five consecutive starts (Pebble, Riviera, Honda and Doral) before he takes a few weeks off.

“I imagine there might be a little bit of rust – it’s always hard to simulate tournament play when you’re at home practicing,” he said. “But I feel like I’m ready. I’m very pleased with how things are going.”

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.