DJ knows from experience: Anything can happen in a major

By Randall MellJune 13, 2014, 7:01 pm

PINEHURST, N.C. – When Dustin Johnson says “anything can happen” on a weekend in a major, he isn’t being hackneyed.

The guy could write a doctoral thesis on the topic.

Well, maybe not, but he could certainly be the subject of any probing look at wild finishes in majors.

With a 1-under-par 69 Friday at the U.S. Open, Johnson was tied for second when he signed his scorecard at Pinehurst No. 2, but it’s debatable whether you can classify him as being in contention. That’s because he was a whopping eight shots behind Martin Kaymer halfway through the championship.

Johnson, however, knows better.

He isn’t spouting wishful thinking when he says anything can happen when pressure escalates on leaders and contenders, making synapses short-circuit, nerves misfire and hearts palpitate. He knows.

If you’ve forgotten, here’s a little of Johnson’s history with chances to win his first major:

2010 U.S. Open – Three shots ahead going into the final round at Pebble Beach, Johnson needed only two holes to squander his lead. In an awkward spot in a bunker at No. 2, he unwisely tried to swat his ball out left-handed. He made triple-bogey-7 and went on to shoot 82 as Graeme McDowell won. Johnson’s 82 was the highest score posted by the 54-hole leader of a U.S. Open in 99 years.

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2010 PGA Championship – One shot ahead stepping to the tee at the 72nd hole at Whistling Straits, Johnson pushed his drive way right, into the crowd and a worn patch of earth. He ended up making a bogey, fully expecting to join Kaymer and Bubba Watson for a three-way playoff. Instead, he learned that patch of earth was actually a bunker, and he would have to take a two-shot penalty for grounding his club in a hazard. He made triple bogey and walked away tied for fifth, with Kaymer going on to win.

2011 British Open – Closing in on Darren Clarke on the back nine Sunday at Royal St. Georges, Johnson was in position to reach the 14th hole in two, with a shot to the right the only play to be avoided at the par 5. He made the big mistake, sailing a 2-iron out of bounds.

So as well as Kaymer is playing, Johnson knows the trouble that lies in wait on a weekend for the leaders of a major, especially at Pinehurst No. 2.

Back at the 2005 U.S. Open here, Retief Goosen took a three-shot lead on Jason Gore and Olin Browne into the final round. None of them came close to winning the championship. Goosen collapsed with an 81, Gore with an 84 and Browne with an 80.

“As you all know, anything can happen in a U.S. Open,” Johnson told the assembled media after signing for a second consecutive 69 at Pinehurst No. 2. “This golf course is tough. If you get just a little bit off with your driver and your irons, you're going to have a long day. I've got a good game plan; I'm going to stick to it. If I keep hitting it like I am, then I'm going to keep shooting good scores.”

Johnson is playing Pinehurst No. 2 aggressively, mashing his driver with impunity around this classic Donald Ross course. He hit 10 drivers Friday, putting himself in favorable positions all morning. A sluggish putter kept him from closing the gap more on Kaymer.

“I played solid,” Johnson said. “I had a lot of good chances to make birdies and was just a little off with the putter.”

Johnson missed a 3-footer for par at the sixth hole. He was frustrated with his stroke there.

“Nothing's going wrong,” Johnson said. “My stroke feels really good. I just hit a bad putt. You can't hit them all good.”

Johnson is a giant talent. He has eight PGA Tour titles, with victories in each of his first six seasons on Tour. The only other player to do that straight out of college was Tiger Woods.

With all that talent, and all the promise he has shown, Johnson has to be considered among the best players without a major championship title. He’s coming to a crossroads that way, with his 30th birthday just nine days away.

Johnson was asked how eager he is to put himself in position on yet another Sunday with a chance to win that first major.

“I want to be there every week,” Johnson said. “It's always a good feeling. You know you're playing well, you got a lot of confidence, especially when you're right up there by the lead. After two days this week, I'm really comfortable with where I'm at, and just need to keep doing what I'm doing.”

When it comes to Sundays in majors, he’ll be looking to change the way they end in a big way.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

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There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

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“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”