THE THOUGHT CAN CROSS ONE’S MIND: HOW DOES HE NOT WIN ALL THE TOURNAMENTS?
That he is still ranked No. 1 in the world speaks to the big lead he once had, but after Jordan Spieth’s win at the Open Championship, it’s now the 24-year old Texan who bestrides the golf world like a colossus. When the RBC Canadian Open began at Glen Abbey on Thursday, Spieth’s absence from the field, in terms of putting the event on the golf radar, was more notable than Johnson’s presence in it.
But through two rounds in Oakville, Johnson has flashed hints of his world-beating form. A 3-under 69 on Friday left him at 8-under for the tournament, within striking distance of the lead heading into the weekend. More significantly, 69 was about the worst he could have scored with the way he was hitting it.
“I’m hitting the ball good,” Johnson said. This counts as effervescence, coming from the laconic Carolinan. “I hit a lot of good putts that didn’t go in the hole. I still feel really good with the putter. I feel like I’m rolling it well.” I tell you, the man is thrilled.
He’s not wrong, either. In one stretch on Friday, he left a birdie putt just short of the hole on 14, lipped out a birdie attempt on 15, finally made a birdie putt on 16 and then burned the edge of the hole with birdie tries on 17 and 18. That close to going really low.
It’s little wonder that, almost alone among the top pros who do not wear an RBC logo on their sleeve, Johnson keeps coming back to Glen Abbey. The course surrenders a lot of eagles — the most on Tour since 2013 — and it has also seen the most 320-yardplus drives, although at least some of that is due to the dry conditions of the past two years, when balls were bounding down the fairways like they were airport runways. It is well suited to a guy who can bomb it long and reasonably straight, which Johnson does better than anyone.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s engaged to a Gretzky. “The fans have been great since the first time I came,” he said earlier in the week. It’s definitely a big boost.” Also: “It’s a lot of fun.” This is Johnson being gleeful.
He has reason enough to be pleased. Three months after the injury at Augusta, Johnson says he is almost back to where he was. When he was winning all the time.
“Yeah, it’s really close,” he said Friday. “The golf swing feels a lot better. I’m starting to hit a lot of good shots, a lot more consistent ball flight. It’s definitely moving in the right direction.”
Glen Abbey, be forewarned.