RIDGELAND, SC – Just warning.
Just in time for next week’s US Open, Dustin Johnson is called up.
Getting rid of recent difficulties, the world No. 1 clocked a 65 bogeyless, 6 below par on Thursday to take a share of the lead in the first round of the Palmetto Championship at Congaree.
The scary part is that his scorecard didn’t include a single birdie out of the three par 5s, and he missed two birdie putts within 8 feet. And his peers should take note: The last time Johnson opened with a 65 or better on the PGA Tour, he won the Masters. In total, he won five of 16 times on the Tour when opening with a 65 or better.
“I felt like I had been swinging well for a while now, just didn’t really see the results or see the scores,” Johnson said. “I made a few putts. I just played solid golf, finally organized a game.
He’s struggled to prepare anything this year. His only top 10 on the PGA Tour came back in February and in his other seven starts he has finished north of 45th place three times and missed two cups, including in his most recent start to the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.
In a seven-hole stretch, he hit each approach to within 11 feet. He found 10 of 14 fairways and ended his day with a birdie at 81 feet.
“It was OK,” he said of his putting. “The greens are a bit difficult to read. I missed a short one there on the fifth par-3. But I hit the putt where I wanted it, it just broke hard and I didn’t see it in the putt. I’m happy with the way I rode it. Obviously 6 under was a good score, but I still missed quite a few small achievable putts.
“The putting was messed up or it’s just like little little mistakes you shouldn’t make, so sometimes it took a little while and cleared my head and it definitely helps me. I did a lot of good work last week and feel like I swing well so if I can roll the putter it’s going to be a fun week.
Johnson shared the lead with Doc Redman, who tied for 42nd at the Memorial last week, then started this week by retiring from the US Open finals in Columbus, Ohio in his first round.
Turns out that was the best thing for him.
“I played 10 holes and then decided I had had enough. We had a long delay in the rain and I was just ready to go home, ”said Redman. “I spent Tuesday at home, then went up Wednesday morning, which I needed. Memorial is such a long, hot and brutal week and I played really well the last three days there so I was trying to continue this week and play well.
“It’s just been a lot of hard work the last few weeks. I know I played well and this is a pretty cool golf course. I was able to hit some good shots and put in a few putts and right after that I know it was going well. “
Jhonattan Vegas was only third with 66. A group at 67 included Patrick Rodgers and a large group at 68 included Tommy Fleetwood.
Among the late starters were Brooks Koepka, Ian Poulter, Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick.