WORLD No. 1 Dustin Johnson has a pretty straightforward game plan for playing the Open Championship at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England, this week: Perform well off the tee.
“It’s a typical links course; you’ve got to hit golf shots, and you’ve got to hit them where you’re looking or you’re going to have a tough time,” Johnson told reporters on Wednesday. “For me, I feel like most of it’s going to be driving. If I can drive it well, then I feel like I’m going to have a really good week.”
Despite Johnson’s reputation as one of the longest drivers in the game, he clarified in a follow-up answer that he was looking for accuracy, not a bomb-and-gouge strategy at a links course that won’t necessarily reward driving distance.
“Yes, I’ve always been a long hitter,” Johnson said, “but I’m not trying to hit it any further, I’m trying to hit it straighter.”
Johnson is sixth on the PGA Tour this season in driving distance, with a 313.8-yard average, while ranking just 133rd in driving accuracy at 58.56 percent, a touch below the tour average of 60.41 percent.
And the two-time major champion is aware that Royal St. George’s, which measures out to be 7,189 yards this week, is a strategic, second-shot golf course with plenty of sand bunkers and dunes that will catch errant drives.
In 2011, the last time the course hosted the Open, Johnson tied with Phil Mickelson for second three strokes behind champion Darren Clarke. He carded an ace during the first round and remained in contention until a double-bogey seven on No. 14 Sunday pushed him too far out of reach.
In casual Johnson fashion, he said he didn’t remember much from his time there 10 years ago, while pointing out he was at a much earlier stage of his career.
“Back then, I was hitting a draw. Now, I predominantly fade it, especially off the tee,” he said. “But yeah, it was a long time ago. (I’m) definitely a different player.”
After finishing on top of the golf world in November 2020 with a victory at the Masters, Johnson has had a much less consistent 2021. He missed the cut at the first two majors of the year before tying for 19th at the US Open. He’s scheduled to play the first two rounds with Will Zalatoris and Justin Rose, beginning with a 10:20 a.m. local tee time (5:20 am. ET) on Thursday. — Reuters