The swing that carried him to the Masters championship was nowhere to be found at the John Deere Classic. Instead of jumping into contention on Friday, he missed the cut.
Johnson shot an even-par 71 for a 36-hole total of 141, 11 behind leader Nathan Green and one off the cut, leaving the event without its main attraction.
'I don't have the feel,' Johnson said. 'That's frustrating. My fundamentals are fine. I've just got to get the feel down.'
Green had it.
He grabbed the lead with a second-round 63 that had him one stroke in front of Jason Dufner (66) and Carl Pettersson (64). First-round leader Neal Lancaster (68) was two strokes back.
Green, an Australian seeking his first tour victory, grabbed the lead on 17 when he knocked in a 4-foot putt for birdie -- his eighth of the day -- to go 12 under.
He spent three weeks relaxing at home in New South Wales after missing the cut at the U.S. Open. He played some 'social golf' but didn't practice. He got in a few soccer games, too, but mostly took it easy.
The time off helped.
'I was just happy to be playing golf again,' Green said. 'Before I went home, the U.S. Open was my last event and I was frustrated and stressed out and not really enjoying playing. That was the reason for the break.'
The 63 was his lowest round in a PGA Tour event and it made him a second-round leader for the first time. Now, he's trying to become the 19th player to earn his first tour victory at the Deere.
With many of the top golfers overseas preparing for next week's British Open, the Deere Classic attracts unknowns and faded stars. One exception was Johnson, a two-time winner this year and the man with the green jacket.
Also missing the cut were Lee Janzen (even), John Daly (6 over) and defending champion John Senden of Australia (7 over).
Johnson ended the round with a flourish, sending a 153-yard approach within a few feet of the cup to set up a birdie on the par-4 18th. But overall, this was not a good week.
He'll try to shake it off in time for the British Open.
'I've just got to get back to where I was mid, early spring and trust in that and see where that takes me,' he said. 'I don't feel like it's that far off.'
Although he grew up just over an hour away in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and considers this his home event, Johnson has never finished higher than 20th. And the form that carried him to a shocking victory at Augusta was nowhere in sight.
He took two weeks off and, unlike Green, the break did not pay immediate dividends on the course.
'I'm just very rusty,' he said. 'I took a lot of time off, which I needed. I don't regret that, and I certainly would do it again. But it's very evident that my game is rusty all around.'
After shooting a 70 in the first round, Johnson got off to a good start Friday when he made a 7-footer for birdie on the first hole, drawing a roar from the gallery. The momentum stalled with a bogey on No. 2, and things really crumbled on the back nine, when he bogeyed 11, 12 and 14.
His tee shot on 14 landed in a bunker, and things were about to get worse. Johnson flipped his club in frustration after he knocked the ball over the green and into the woods, and his third shot went only a few feet.
'Obviously disappointing,' Johnson said. 'This is one of those jobs, if you will, that you've got to get over pretty quick. I'm accustomed to that. I never like missing cuts, especially by a shot, especially being close to home.'
For Dufner, the Deere Classic has been a good turnaround after 2 1/2 months he described as 'pretty awful.'
He missed the cut in five straight tournaments before finishing 62nd and 25 over par at the U.S. Open. He was worn out, kept repeating the same mistakes, but was reluctant to take a break. He finally did last week after missing the cut at the Buick Open.
'For some reason, I had gotten to where my arm swing was a lot higher in my backswing, which really caused me problems because the way I rotate, I don't really have a lot of drop in my hand and arms,' Dufner said. 'It's always steep to the plane, steep to the plane. It's pretty tough to play steep at this level. You've got to watch your club face, and I couldn't hit the shots I wanted to do.'