Dustin Johnson’s white-hot year took a hard turn when he got hurt before the Masters. Can he put it together again at the PGA Championship and close the season strong?
Dustin Johnson owned the world of golf for two months. He rocketed to first in the World Ranking when he won the Genesis Open in February, then followed it up with two WGC wins in March. Heading into the Masters, people were legitimately talking about Johnson making a run at the Grand Slam.
Then, as quickly as he rose to the top, DJ took one wrong step, and everything came to a screeching halt.
Johnson injured his back in a fall at his rental home in Augusta early during Masters week. He attempted to play, but was forced to withdraw right before his Thursday tee time. As it turned out, it would be a full month before he would return to PGA TOUR action.
All is not lost, of course, but it’s clear that that moment was a turning point in Johnson’s 2017 TOUR campaign. He nearly won in his return at the Wells Fargo Championship (at Eagle Lake), falling just a shot shy of a playoff with eventual winner Brian Harman.
Top-15 finishes at THE PLAYERS and the AT&T Byron Nelson showed that Johnson was still ready to compete with strong fields, but the grind of the season appears to have worn on him. Missed cuts at the Memorial Tournament and the U.S. Open put the brakes on hard. He shot 64 on Saturday at The Open, but closed with a 77 to finish tied for 54th.
Suddenly, his fortunes had turned. The world-beater looked like he was being beaten by the world.
The PGA Championship at Quail Hollow fits Dustin Johnson perfectly
As tough has Dustin Johnson had it over the first part of the summer, there’s a big silver lining. One that’s about 7,600 yards long, to be specific. The PGA Championship is Dustin Johnson’s last shot at fulfilling his major destiny in 2017, and Quail Hollow should be a perfect closing act.
A product of Coastal Carolina university, about three hours away and just across the border in
South Carolina, Johnson last played the Wells Fargo in 2011. That year, he shot 72-79, and missed the cut. Of course, a lot can change in six years, and Johnson has elevated his game tremendously since he last visited Charlotte.
With a redesign from Tom Fazio over the last 18 months, along with rains softening the track, driving skill will be amplified this week. Of course, that’s about as perfect a set of conditions as Johnson could hope for. He currently leads the PGA TOUR in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, and ranks second in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee.
How important is that? According to Justin Ray of Golf Channel, it’s been the difference maker at Quail Hollow plenty of times.
The only other players who are close there? Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia, with Rory McIlroy right there, if he had played enough to qualify for the official records.
There are very few glaring weaknesses in Johnson’s overall game. He’s just as reliable with a wedge in his hand as he is with the driver, and when he’s putting well (ranked 46th in strokes gained putting) it’s game over.
If the last three majors haven’t proven to you just how hard a major is to win, nothing will. However, as they say, luck is just the meeting of preparation and opportunity. Johnson will look to take advantage of both this week at Quail Hollow.