A two-time major champion, world No.1 and with 27 professional wins to his name, Dustin Johnson has accomplished more than most in golf but says lifting the Claret Jug would rank among the very best of his career achievements.
The American has come close before, on the very course where this week’s Open Championship will be held in fact, as he finished runner-up to Darren Clarke in the 2011 renewal at Royal St George’s.
Playing in the final group alongside Clarke, the then-27-year-old got within two shots of the lead on the middle of the back nine but a double bogey at the 14th cost him and he ultimately finished three shots behind the Northern Irishman.
A decade on, Johnson is a different player and believes he is starting to regain the form that saw him win three PGA Tour events in as many months last summer, before sealing a second major title at the Masters in November 2020.
“I played really well for about six, seven months. I feel like the game is starting to get back to where it was, just seeing a lot more consistency with the shots and the shapes,” said Johnson.
“I think that's probably just a little bit of the difference. The putting as well – I felt like I putted consistently well for that time period, so I’ve just been working on the putter a lot. I feel like that ultimately can be the difference.
“[Winning The Open] would definitely be right up at the top of my achievements. It's obviously a major and it's a tournament where I've been close quite a few times.
“I really like coming over here and playing, so it would be right up at the top with the rest of them.”
ROYAL ST GEORGE'S RETURN
In addition to coming second back in 2011, Johnson also recorded a top-ten finish at the 2012 and 2016 Open Championships, in addition to a T12 in 2014.
And the 37-year-old is excited to be back at Royal St George’s, a course he enjoys, even if it’s a different beast to a decade ago.
“2011 was a long time ago but obviously I have good memories here and I did play well,” added Johnson.
“I do like this golf course. I feel like it's a tough golf course and it's going to play difficult, especially with the wind direction that it's supposed to blow for the week.
“It's a typical links course – you've got to hit golf shots and you've got to hit them where you're looking to hit them or you're going to have a tough time.
“The course is the same golf course but it was a little bit firmer in 2011 – they've had a lot of rain this week, so it's playing a little bit softer.
“It's starting to firm up a little bit though and I feel like the course in really good shape. I think it's shaping up to be a great Open Championship.”