After his several narrow misses in the major championship over the last few years, including at last month’s US Open where he missed a three-feet putt to get into a play-off, the ‘C’ word is being increasingly associated with Dustin Johnson.
But the big-hitting American is not looking at it as choking, but as getting more and more comfortable on the big stage.
What started as a final-round meltdown when he had Pebble Beach on its knees after the first three days of the 2010 US Open, has seen him make rookie mistakes (grounding the club in what was deemed as a hazard and incurring a penalty in the 2010 PGA Championship) and near misses in the 2011 and 2014 Open Championship.
The 31-year-old has won every year on the PGA Tour since joining the tour in 2008, and can count two World Golf Championship titles and two FedEx Cup Playoff titles in his nine wins since then.
But the greatness of a player is always measured by his ability to handle the pressure in the majors, and this is where he has fallen flat time and again. In fact, in his last six major starts, Johnson has an incredible four top-eight finishes.
Playing his first event after the US Open, Johnson said it did not take long for him to get over the frustrations of the final hole.
“Not very long,” said Johnson. “You know, I played really well that week. I was happy with the way I played and the way I handled myself coming down the last few holes. I thought I hit the shots that I was supposed to hit.
“Obviously, right after, I was done. I was a little bit frustrated, a little disappointed. But obviously it was still a good week, but then coming off the green, Paulina (his wife) and Tatum (son) were standing there, so that definitely made things a lot better. And then we all went to Coeur d’Alene to Idaho and just spent the night there, hung out with friends and family. It was nice.
“You know, I did everything I was supposed to. It wasn’t too difficult to get over it. Obviously I was a little disappointed I didn’t get the job done, but you know, I was definitely happy with the way I played.”
Johnson said every major heartbreak has been a learning experience for him and he was just happy to get into contention each time.
“I think it’s very good, very positive,” he added. “It gives me the confidence to know I have what it takes to win.
“I think I showed that at the US Open. Coming down the back nine, I was hitting the shots that I wanted to hit. Unfortunately the ball wasn’t bouncing in the hole. I know I have got what it takes, so I’m excited to get this week started.
“I think you can learn from every situation. It just depends on the way you want to look at it. I think every person is different. I try to look at them all as learning opportunities. Each one helps me get closer to actually getting a major.”
— Claude Harmon III (@CH3golf) July 13, 2015
Having not finished outside the top-15 in his last five Open starts, Johnson said he was looking forward to the week and taking on a links course once again.
“I always enjoy coming over and playing the British Open. I feel like I play very well over here. I’ve always liked it since the first time I came over in college, and I just think it’s a lot of fun,” said Johnson, who revealed he prepped for the week playing links courses in Ireland the week before.
“I like the golf here, and it’s very challenging, uses a lot of imagination, and this is one of my favourite Open venues with the history, and I just love the golf course. I played pretty well here the last time I was here in 2010 (when he finished tied-14th).”
Johnson also provided a moment of manic laughter in the media centre. When asked what did he think about Jordan Spieth’s chances of getting a calendar grand slam in this week’s Open and next month’s PGA Championship, the American quipped with a dead-pan: “Well, I’m playing in the next two, so we’ll have to see.”
Johnson has been paired with Spieth and Hideli Matsuyama the first two days of the tournament. On Thursday, they tee off at 12.33 UAE time.
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