DJ 2.0 opens with 65 at Chambers Bay

By Rex HoggardJune 18, 2015, 10:54 pm

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – Dustin Johnson 2.0 certainly has all of the characteristics of the original – tall, athletic, powerful and subtly confident – and his display on Thursday at the new-look U.S. Open checked off all of the familiar boxes – booming drives, fearless lines, effortless results.

But as the nine-time PGA Tour winner put the finishing touches on an opening-round 65 at crispy Chambers Bay there was no mistaking the fact that this guy is different.

With his signature economy of words, Johnson made that point clear when the subject turned to the last time he found himself in the mix at his national championship.

“That was a long time ago,” he said when asked about the 2010 U.S. Open when he turned a three-stroke 54-hole lead into a spectacularly disappointing tie for eighth. “I think I'm a better player, obviously a lot more mature. My game is definitely in better shape than it was then.”

But then his game was never in doubt, not since the day he arrived on the Tour in 2008 and turned more heads than a barber.

At 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, Johnson was a swing coach’s dream, a rare mix of physical gifts and genetic talent with club head speed (121 mph for those scoring at home) that defied common standards.

Where Johnson has evolved, however, has more to do with the speed he was living his life.

Last August, he announced he was taking a leave of absence from the game “to seek professional help for personal challenges I have faced.”


Full-field scores: 115th U.S. Open


Two days after announcing that break, Golf.com, citing an unnamed source, reported that Johnson had been suspended by the Tour for failing his third drug test. Both the Tour and Johnson denied that report.

Whatever transpired between Johnson and the Tour, when he returned to the fold earlier this year at the Farmers Insurance Open it was clear things were different.

“He seems to have a sense of calm about him now that I never saw before,” Butch Harmon, Johnson’s swing coach, recently told GolfChannel.com. “The talent has always been there. What I have seen is a person who may be 30 years old, but he’s finally grown up.”

Despite the storm of speculation, Johnson quickly changed the conversation by embracing fatherhood and newborn son, Tatum, and winning his fifth event back after returning from his hiatus.

Even his opening 65 at Chambers Bay, a card marred by just a single bogey at his finishing hole (No. 9) and good enough for a share of the lead, was different.

Sure, the power was there.

At the par-4 seventh hole, for example, he launched his tee shot over a corner of the fairway the vast majority of the field wouldn’t even consider taking on.

“Over the right side [of No. 7] it's a pretty long carry, so it definitely helps, because I can fly it over that corner,” explained Johnson, who averaged 336 yards off the tee on Thursday.

“Today on 16 with the tee up, that bunker on the right, it's like a 300 [yard] carry, and I can carry it that far, so it definitely helps to take the bunker out of play.”

But he was just as quick to point out that despite a prevailing opinion that Chambers Bay is a bomber’s paradise, it is in fact a second-shot golf course that rewards patience almost as much as precision as evidenced by the fact that Johnson forged his way into the lead without making a birdie on either of the par 5s.

Many players have embraced that well-played iron shots will find trouble and the occasional clunker will end up within birdie range. It’s a reality that’s often difficult to square with and a sign of how far Johnson has come.

Dealing with that occasional rub of the green has not always been his stock in trade. Troubling twists like his 6-iron tee shot at No. 9 – which caromed left of the putting surface, weaved between two bunkers and came to rest in a particularly nasty lie – would have derailed the other guy.

“It rolled all the way through [the bunker]. So then I almost hit it backwards up and around,” he offered with a c’est la vie shrug.

This is not the same player who imploded on Sunday at Pebble Beach in 2010, where he played his first four holes in 6 over par.

Missing from this edition, at least early in the experiment, are the mental lapses that cost Johnson the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits when he ground his club in a hazard on the 72nd hole.

While the sum of Johnson’s physical parts remains the same, the more esoteric changes have given way to something more complete, someone more content.

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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.