John­son out to prove his game is back


CHAR­LOTTE, N.C. — Dustin John­son has one last chance at a ma­jor cham­pi­onship to prove he didn’t leave his game at the bot­tom of that stair­case.

The PGA Cham­pi­onship this week marks the fi­nal shot for the world’s top-ranked player to con­tend for a ma­jor dur­ing an oth­er­wise lost year that went hay­wire af­ter a tum­ble down the stairs forced him out of the Masters.

That fall not only wrenched his back, it wrecked his sea­son.

It seemed un­think­able that John­son would come to the year’s fi­nal ma­jor with­out even chal­leng­ing for one. He won three straight tour­na­ments be­fore that fate­ful trip to Au­gusta, where he slipped down the stairs at his ren­tal home and hurt his back, an in­jury that kept him out of the sea­son’s first ma­jor.

John­son missed the cut at the U.S. Open , then fell be­hind early at the Bri­tish Open and fin­ished in a tie for 54th place — 16 strokes be­hind win­ner Jor­dan Speith.

John­son ad­mit­ted that he lost “a lit­tle feel, a lit­tle touch” in his short game dur­ing his lay­off, and that when he re­built his reper­toire, he “prob­a­bly did it in the wrong or­der.

He’s see­ing some con­crete ev­i­dence of im­prove­ment: He’s held the world No. 1 rank­ing for 25 straight weeks. The week af­ter the Bri­tish Open, he fin­ished in a tie for eighth at the RBC Cana­dian Open, and he fol­lowed that with a tie for 17th at the Bridge­stone In­vi­ta­tional.

On a scale of one to 10, John­son says his game rated as a three when he first re­turned from the in­jury but says it’s “about an 8 1/2 right now.”

Maybe a visit to a course the South Carolina na­tive con­sid­ers “kind of home” will help. John­son grew up about an hour from Char­lotte in Columbia, South Carolina; played col­lege golf at Coastal Carolina and slyly said he’s re­ceived “a few” ticket re­quests.

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