Dustin Johnson doesn’t have a top-10 on the PGA Tour in nearly four months. He missed the cut in his Masters title defense and missed the cut in his most recent start, the PGA Championship.
His putter hasn’t cooperated much this year – putters, actually – but to have watched him, you would have notice his game, on the whole, has been a little off since his second major triumph in November.
Thursday, however, things came together. He drove the ball well, hit his share of greens, got up and down every time when he didn’t, and made enough putts to shoot 6-under 65 in the opening round of the Palmetto Championship at Congaree. He's part of a group one back of leader Wes Roach.
“I don't know. I just hit shots, wherever it goes, it goes,” Johnson said regarding his performance. “But, yeah, like I said, I was swinging good today, gave myself a lot of opportunities and hit some good putts. So, I'm just pleased with the way I played.”
Among the morning wave, Johnson led the field in strokes gained: tee to green. He hit 10 of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens in regulation. But he was also 7-for-7 in scrambling and only needed to make 67 feet of putts to notch six birdies.
After parring his first five holes in Round 1, Johnson’s iron play, in particular, got hot. From the 18th hole – his ninth of the round – through the sixth, Johnson didn’t have a birdie putt outside of 12 feet. He converted four of those and then capped his day with a chip-in from 82 feet at the par-4 ninth.
“I'm playing well, I feel like I've been playing pretty good all year, just, like I said, I haven't putted well, short game's been a little off, but today I missed it in the right spots when I did miss it, but hit a lot of real quality iron shots and gave myself a lot of looks,” Johnson said.
Surprisingly, Johnson didn’t make a birdie on any of Congaree Golf Club’s three par 5s. All six birdies came on the par 4s.
This is Congaree’s first venture as a PGA Tour host. The Palmetto Championship was announced in April after the RBC Canadian Open was canceled for the second consecutive year in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Johnson, who has held the world No. 1 ranking since his win at The Northern Trust in August, is trying to win for a 25th time on the PGA Tour and for the first time in his native South Carolina.
“Obviously, I get a lot of support here in South Carolina, being I'm a South Carolina native, and, yeah, it's been great,” said Johnson, who was born in Columbia. “Hopefully, I can keep it rolling for the rest of this week.”