Dustin Johnson loving being back at No 1 but insists winning is better ahead of US Open | Golf | Sport


Johnson yesterday regained the No1 ranking after loaning it to Justin Thomas for three weeks on the back of his six-shot win at the St Jude Classic which sends him to Shinnecock Hills in his best shape to a win a Major since last year’s Masters.

That Augusta challenge ground to a halt when he clattered down the stairs the day before the tournament and had to withdraw, but after destroying the field in Memphis he is flying as he approaches the season’s second Major.

He has finished in the top 20 in his last five events and reminded himself of the damage his power game can do at an opportune moment, crowning his emphatic victory by holing out from 169 yards with a nine iron for an eagle at the final hole.

“Winning is a bigger confidence booster than being No1 in the world,” said Johnson. “Playing the way I did all week, knowing everything that was on the line gives me a lot of confidence. It was a big win, it was a big statement.

“I knew, coming in, that I was swinging well. It was nice being back in the lead and getting the juices flowing again.”

Johnson, who is grouped with Thomas and Tiger Woods on Thursday and Friday, played 18 holes at Shinnecock for the first time yesterday having prioritised tournament rounds in his build-up.

“I just felt like I needed to get a couple more reps in before the US Open. I would rather go in there sharper than go up there and get more practice rounds in,” he said.

Johnson won the US Open two years ago at Oakmont after a controversial final day which saw him docked a shot on the basis of video evidence after being held responsible for moving his ball a fraction of an inch on the fifth green. He had initially been cleared by the official with his match.

A repeat this year is impossible with golf’s authorities changing the rules to eliminate penalties when a ball is accidentally moved on a putting green.

If Oakmont was a classic venue for Johnson to clinch his first Major, Shinnecock falls into a similar bracket – even if the generosity of the fairways is hardly traditional US Open fare.

“If it’s wide open and there’s nothing to aim at, that’s the worst,” said Johnson. “The last one at Erin Hills the fairways were a little bit too wide for a US Open.

“Erin Hills and Chambers Bay were great Major Championship venues, for sure, but maybe not US Open venues. When I think of the US Open I think of it as exactly how Oakmont looked.”

For Johnson’s coach Butch Harmon the quality of the Long Island course points to a high-ranked winner. Perhaps even a No1.

“When you look at these courses the cream rises to the top and you’ve got to go to the top of the list and look at Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy – these kind of guys,” said Harmon.

“Shinnecock is one of America’s best courses so you have to look at the guys who are playing well going in there.

“The one who stands out on your side of the ocean is Jon Rahm given how well he’s played all over the world. Justin Rose has played consistently, Tommy Fleetwood and Paul Casey, who has a great chance. He had a good chance at the Masters but he was injured.

“You look on the US side and you’ve got Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, these guys are all playing really well.

“Brooks Koepka, the defending US Open champion, is the one guy who has a question mark but he’s been injured so we don’t know how Brooks is going to pan out. But if you look at how everyone is playing it’s pretty impressive.”

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