DJ built for majors; with one, more to come?

By Joe PosnanskiJune 20, 2016, 10:25 pm

OAKMONT, Pa. – Dustin Johnson never did fit in with that group of players that fans so casually categorize as the “best to never win a major championship." That club has always felt a bit too much like golf's isle of Misfit Toys for him. You know: One guy is a magnificent grinder but he doesn't have quite enough firepower. Another can hit it pure but he lacks a little bit of the magic that you need around the greens. The third has enough game but he hesitates ever so slightly in the pivotal moment.

And all of them, if they are being honest with themselves, kind of know why they are here on the Island.

But Dustin Johnson, no, he never belonged here. DJ? Flawed? Are you kidding? This guy does not belong on some island with a bunch of very good players who just couldn’t quite win the big one. He belonged on the top of a mountain, and not just any mountain, Mount Olympus, the one with Hephaestus, the god of fire, and Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, and Dustinus, the god of "Great Zeus, did you see the way he smashed the Prometheus out of that golf that ball?”

DJ has everything. He has the 350-yard drives. He has the towering approach shots. He makes more birdies and eagles than just about anybody. I remember years ago getting fitted for clubs as part of a story, and the golf science-y guy there – the one that puts all the sensors on the body and measures every ounce of golfing talent you have – asked me to name the most talented player in the world. There was only one right answer, he said.

"Tiger Woods?" I asked. He shook his head no.

"Rory McIlroy?" I asked. He shook his head no.

And then he told me that Johnson's golfing talent is so overwhelming that it about blew up his sensors. No player had ever tested even close to him. "Dustin is the most talented golfer on earth," he said. "And nobody is in second place."

His swing is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive; his shots leap tall buildings in a single bound and then drop softly on the other side, dance a little salsa dance and spin toward the cup like an obedient puppy. It isn’t just that he can make the game look easy. He makes it look too easy. Have you ever owned a standup video game, the sort they used to have in arcades back when there were arcades? Once, a few years ago, I bought an old Superman video game at a sale for around twenty-five bucks. I always wanted a video game. I got so good at it that I literally made it obsolete … I reached the end and there was nothing left.

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That’s how DJ plays sometimes – like he has reached the end and there’s nothing left.

No, a guy like Dustin Johnson doesn’t belong on the Isle of Misfit Toys with the elf who wants to be a dentist or the Jack in the Box named Charlie or Sergio Garcia. This is a guy who can dunk a basketball, a guy engaged to Paulina, a guy who has the greatest hockey player ever just following him around tournaments. Snake-bit? This guy? Not a chance.

But, of course, you know: He was snake-bit. He couldn’t win that major for a long, long time. He kept winning on the PGA Tour. He kept putting himself in position to win majors. But something always broke down. What? Well, sometimes, a lot of the time, it fell apart because he couldn’t putt the ball in the hole. Putting has wrecked a lot of great players through the years.

Sometimes it fell apart because he was struggling with his personal life. He stepped away from the Tour for a while. There have always been rumors.

Sometimes – a lot of the time, actually – strange stuff just happened to him. He found himself in a bunker that didn’t look anything like a bunker. He found himself putting for a U.S. Open over greens the color and texture of sandpaper. And so on.

Sometimes, frankly, you just had no idea what was going on in his head. He seemed a bit dazed and confused. Johnson takes the Zen approach to golf, meaning he doesn’t want to think too much about it. He’s like the anti-Spieth. When people ask him questions that seem to complicate things, he just won’t go with them, as can be seen by this classic reporter-player exchange before Sunday’s round:

“Do you want (the conditions) to be as hard as it can possibly be?”

DJ: “I’m pretty sure it’s going to be hard.”

“Jason (Day) was just saying he wanted it to be really hard – is a hard golf course to the advantage of (the best players)?”

DJ: “I would imagine it’s going to be quite difficult Sunday.”

And sometimes, well, his inability to win the big one was sort of inexplicable. I watched Johnson so thoroughly obliterate the Old Course at St. Andrews in last year’s Open Championship that, honestly, it just seemed like everybody else would be saving time by just going home. He was 10 under par after the first two rounds and, with a little bit of luck, he could have been 20 under.

And then, he just stopped making birdies. He just stopped. Yeah, much of it came down to his putting, but some of it was just, I don’t know, he just sort of malfunctioned. He kept hitting drives longer than anybody and approaches higher than anybody and somehow he’d hit just enough bad shots to keep from scoring. He faded away.

At Oakmont it seemed like it would be yet another fade-away chapter in Johnson’s weird career. In the first round, he obliterated the course. Analysts can’t help but compare players with Woods, and it normally isn’t fair to either the player or the the incomparable Woods.

But Johnson in the first round at Oakmont was a near-perfect parallel to Tiger, but not the dominant and complete Woods of the 2000s. DJ was like raw Tiger in 1997, the year he so thoroughly overpowered the Masters that the Augusta National people realized they would have to completely change the golf course.

Tiger wasn’t a great player yet. But he was powerful. You will remember at Augusta, he turned every par 5 into a par 4. He hit wedge shots into every green. It was laughable. And that’s how Johnson treated Oakmont. The people of Pittsburgh take great pride in Oakmont being the toughest golf course in America, in the world, and yet there was Johnson hitting easy wedges into every green and having decent birdie looks on most holes. It’s a good thing the USGA had the greens running at 200 on the stimp or Johnson might have shot 59.

Then the tournament went formless. A crazy rain storm sent everybody scrambling, golf rounds bled from one day into the next, the top players in the world faded from view. And somehow Johnson found himself four shots back going into Sunday and just hanging around with a couple of Isle of Misfit Toys frat brothers, Garcia and Lee Westwood. He still seemed to playing better than anyone else. But this had become a familiar story.

Sunday was one of the weirdest days in major championship history, of course, with bizarre rulings and non-rulings, with players charging and retreating in constantly dramatic fashion, and at no point until the very end did it seem like Johnson would win. But he did win, even if the USGA did its very best to obscure that fact with its bizarre rulings and non-rulings. Johnson made a titanic, one of a kind, Dustin Johnson birdie on the 18th hole, the one nobody can birdie, to clinch the U.S. Open trophy and the greatest victory of his life.

And then he said the most Dustin Johnson thing ever:

“Even on the 18th green, after I hit it in there close, I had to ask my brother, I’m like, ‘Where do we stand?’ I’m pretty sure I’m ahead but I had no idea.”

So, now what? Everybody has been waiting to see who would own the golf world in the post-Tiger era. McIlroy has staked a claim. Spieth and Day have staked a claim.

And now, Dustin Johnson, age 31, is the U.S. Open champion. He knows that he can hold up under even the most ridiculous conditions and circumstances. He still hits the ball longer than anybody and higher than anybody. He now rouses American galleries like no one except Phil Mickelson.

You get the sense, talking to the other players, that they now know that the floodgates have opened, and the Age of Dustin is about to begin.

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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”