Driver in check, DJ carves out opening 68


GULLANE, Scotland – Dustin Johnson is the only player at this week’s Open Championship who has finished in the top 15 each of the last three years. In fact, no one has even done it twice during that same span.

Although it’s early, Johnson is in position to keep the streak alive after an opening-round 68 Thursday at Muirfield.

Johnson’s caddie, Bobby Brown, is back on the bag for the first time in more than a month (paternity leave), just in time to see his boss hit only one driver all day in a round that produced four birdies, three bogeys and an eagle.

The round appeared as if it was going to be special after 11 holes (he was 4 under) but Johnson got careless down the stretch, particularly on the 15th and 16th greens where he missed makeable par attempts and three-putted. An eagle on the par-5 17th hole salvaged a respectable 3-under score in fairly tame weather conditions.

“I always enjoy playing links golf, no matter what golf course it is,” Johnson said. “It’s a lot of fun to play one that’s really fast. I’m enjoying it. You’ve got to be really creative off the tee and coming into these greens. It’s just a lot of fun.”

Johnson’s best chance to win this championship came two years ago at Royal St. George’s, when he trailed Darren Clarke with five holes remaining. Johnson was in the middle of the fairway on the par-5 14th and grabbed a 2-iron. Instead of reaching the green Johnson blew the shot wildly right and out of bounds. He made double bogey and tied for second place with Phil Mickelson, three shots behind Clarke.

After victory in the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Johnson has not played particularly well. Since that Hawaii win he has only recorded two other top-10 finishes in 14 events.