Dustin Johnson is golf’s Teflon man. At the PGA Championship two weeks ago, he lost his yardage book before the third round.
No worries, he went out and carded eight birdies, his most in a major-championship round, shot 65 and took the 54-hole lead. Despite a respectable closing 2-under 68, he ended up becoming the first player to fail to convert four times from the lead or co-lead at a major. But Johnson took his latest defeat – this time at the hands of 23-year-old Collin Morikawa – at a major in stride.
“I played really well,” he said. “Generally, with the lead shooting 68 at a major on Sunday, nine times out of ten you’re going to win. Yeah, I mean, obviously Collin played really well that Sunday.”
As for Brooks Koepka taking a few shots publicly at Johnson’s lack of major championship success, Johnson refused to get into a war of words and sounded like someone who could care less.
“It doesn’t matter,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t bother me. He can think whatever he wants.”
Johnson has never been one to live in the past. Of finishing runner-up at the PGA for the second straight year, he said, “It’s one of those things,” and that he “wasn’t upset with it. Obviously I would have loved to have won, but I played good, finished second, that’s all right.”
In Bill Belichick fashion, Johnson is on to next week. He rolled into Boston, a city where the sports franchises have taken turns collecting championships at a Tiger Woods rate the last 15 years, and Johnson picked up where he left off. He signed for an opening-round 4-under 67 at TPC Boston.
Johnson, who won the Northern Trust in 2014 and 2017, is seeking to join Vijay Singh as the only players with three or more wins at the Northern Trust.
Johnson’s putter did its job early – he started on the back nine – as he canned birdie putts of 12 feet at No. 11 and 19 feet at the 12th. But what’s even better than making putts? Not needing to use your flat stick, of course. Johnson holed a bunker shot for birdie at 17 and chipped in from 33 feet at 18 for eagle. Johnson turned in 5-under 30, and looked as if he was off to the races. But he sandwiched two bogeys, at No. 5 and the par-5 seventh hole, around just one birdie – when he stuffed a short iron to within 5 feet at the sixth. His putter let him down, especially at No. 5 where he took three whacks from 18 feet. Johnson lost more than two strokes to the field, and said he would be headed to the practice green in the afternoon.
He’ll have some work to do on Friday if he’s going to catch clubhouse leader Harris English, who shot 7-under 64 on Thursday. For Johnson, it’s just business as usual, and he knows that he’s well positioned to make another run at the FedEx Cup, a title he’d like to finally add to his trophy case. He was outside the top 100 after play resumed in June, but won the Travelers Championship and finished runner-up at the PGA to improve to No. 15 heading into the three-event playoff climaxing in Atlanta.
“I’d like to move up a little bit going into East Lake,” Johnson said of the site of the Tour Championship in two weeks. “I’m looking for some solid weeks here just to try to better my position going into the FedEx Cup Championship.”