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,, 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 “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.

Getty Images

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.

Getty Images

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.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

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?

Getty Images

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."

Getty Images

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