Wednesday 18 September 2019

DJ mixes power with fine touch to stand a class apart

Looking as relaxed as a man out for a walk in the park, the laconic Johnson (right) swaggered his way to a three under 67 Photo: Getty
Looking as relaxed as a man out for a walk in the park, the laconic Johnson (right) swaggered his way to a three under 67 Photo: Getty

Brian Keogh

Tiger Woods hit the nail on the head as he headed back to his yacht 14 shots behind halfway leader Dustin Johnson.

"You just can't fake it at a Major championship," Woods said after finishing with two birdies, adding a 72 to his opening 78 to finish just outside the cut on 10-over par.

"I've won a few Majors in my career, and in every single one, I've played well.

"I'm not very happy the way I played and the way I putted. You don't win Major championships by kind of slapping all around the place and missing putts. You have to be on."

The 14-time Major winner still thinks he'll add to his haul in the grand slam events. "Absolutely," he said. "Have you seen the way I've been swinging?"

He may be right about his future in Majors but he's got some way to go to match the peerless Johnson on the evidence of yesterday's rain-soaked morning session.

Despite all the moaning and the gnashing of teeth about the unfairness of the set-up - jungle rough, pins cut on tiny patches, ice-rink greens - the leaderboard did not lie.

It showed the world number one leading by five strokes in the clubhouse from the European number one Tommy Fleetwood and Sweden's Henrik Stenson on four-under-par.

Looking as relaxed as a man out for a walk in the park, the laconic Johnson (right) swaggered his way to a three-under 67 as Fleetwood missed just two greens and birdied three of his last five holes for a best of the week 66 to get back to one-over as Stenson shot a solid 70.

"He is the hottest player in the world right now," Graeme McDowell said as Johnson combined power with great to cruise to an impressive 67.

While the Portrush man needed a five-wood to reach three of the par-fours yesterday "off OK drives", Johnson made light work of Shinnecock Hills in cool, rainy conditions

"He's not doing anything great," Justin Thomas said carding a 70 to trail Johnson by eight strokes at halfway.

"He's not doing anything bad. He's just hitting the fairways, keeping it in front of him, and he's playing DJ golf."

For the record, "DJ golf" is easy to define.

"It's just really good and really consistent," Thomas said. "He drives the ball really well. His distance control and his iron flights are great. And he's a very, very under-rated bunker player.

"He had some great up-and-downs out of bunkers today, and he's putting the ball well. So he pretty much has it all covered, I think."

Johnson missed six greens in regulation but dropped just one shot all day, picking up two birdies on each nine in another clinical demonstration of what it takes to survive in a US Open.

"It's a tough golf course, tough conditions, so it's very important to stay patient all day," Johnson said, pointing to his even temper as key.

"Why am I going to get upset about a bad shot I hit? I do it every day when I play. So you just got to go find it and hit it again," he said.

Fleetwood could only agree after his 66.

"I kind of like the grind and the patience game and kind of how tough it is," he said.

"Whether I shoot 10-over or 66 today, I feel like, when the weather is bad, I kind of have that in me, the mental side."

Irish Independent

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