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Blastoff: Woodland, DJ power way to top at Torrey

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SAN DIEGO – Topping out at 7,700 yards, Torrey Pines’ South Course would seem to set up well for Gary Woodland and Dustin Johnson, two of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour. But in 13 tries, they’ve combined for only a pair of top-10s. 

The reason? All that power doesn’t mean much if they’re not in the fairway.

Woodland and Johnson are bashing their way to success so far this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, though it’ll be a tougher test on the weekend with both rounds on the South Course.

Woodland is tied with K.J. Choi at 9-under 135, while Johnson is one shot back after a second-round 66.

“I feel like I can just hit driver as hard as I want and keep the ball in play,” Woodland said.

Added Johnson: “If I hit the driver well, I’m going to shoot a good score.”

Woodland is 9 under on the par 5s this week and, according to the PGA Tour, is the first player since 1997 to make birdie or better on his first eight par 5s. 

He is ranked third in driving distance (302.1 yards) and said Friday that he’s actually gotten longer off the tee over the past few months. 

There are a few reasons for that. First, he’s comfortable with his swing after spending more time with coach Jim McLean. He also has switched equipment, going back to Titleist with his irons and TaylorMade for his driver and 3-wood.

“I’m hitting it a long way,” he said. “My speed numbers are up, ball speed and the driver. I’m hitting it as long as I’ve ever hit it.” 

But, most importantly, he’s healthy, after his seven-year career has been marked by injuries to his shoulder, wrist, hip and neck. Woodland started working with Miami-based trainer David Alexander, who has helped NBA stars such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen with their fitness, and plans to move down to South Florida full time later this year.

“I feel as good as I’ve ever felt,” he said.

Woodland and Johnson are grouped together Saturday. There should be no shortage of 320-yard drives.