Johnson gets monkey off his back
With victory in the US Open at Oakmont last month Dustin Johnson finally proved he has what it takes to a win Major Championship. Now he has The Open in his sights.
The most laid-back player in the game, the American heads into The 145th Open at Royal Troon as one of the favourites to lift the Claret Jug. Where once there were doubts, there are now only certainties.
“It’s nice not to be playing for my first major,” Johnson said today. He has seen Major Championships slip from his grasp in agonising style – at the US Open in 2010 and 2015 for instance; and the 2010 US PGA Championship, when he was penalised for grounding his club in a bunker – and must have wondered if the golfing gods would ever smile on him. No more.
“The monkey’s off my back,” he said, laughing. “He’s rammed in the bag.”
Listening to Johnson speak it becomes obvious that the doubts others held on his behalf were not held by the man himself.
Asked if he felt like the best player in the world, in light of the WGC- Bridgestone Invitational title he immediately added to his US Open title, he gave a frank, though by no means boastful, answer. “I always feel like I’m the best player in the world,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in my game.”
He admitted, however that his thinking had changed a little bit. “I always expect to come out and contend, although it’s a good feeling (to have won the US Open). So on Sunday, if I’m in contention, just knowing that I can get it done is a big confidence booster coming down the stretch.”
As one of the most explosive players in the game Johnson can take the breath away with his ability around a golf course. Asked, however, if links golf forces him to rein back, he simply shrugs. He spent two days in Ireland last week, practising and playing Portmarnock and The Island, and feels ready and prepared for the challenge. Nothing bothers him.
“Where to hit it – and not driving into bunkers – is the biggest key,” he said. “If you can stay out of the (fairway) bunkers this week, I think you’re going to do pretty well.”
One of Johnson’s strengths is the ability to keep it simple. And as with all great players, the harder the course, the more he likes it. Royal Troon, then, will not disappoint.