Look­ing to close

John­son pushes U.S. Open heartache aside as he pre­pares for Bri­tish Open

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS - BY TIM DAHLBERG

Dustin John­son isn’t much for look­ing back. He doesn’t spend a lot of time won­der­ing what might have been a few weeks ago at the U.S. Open.

But if he needed a re­minder of how close he came to win­ning his first ma­jor ti­tle at Cham­bers Bay, he won’t have to look far Thurs­day at the Bri­tish Open. There on the first tee with him at St. An­drews will be Jor­dan Spi­eth, who be­came the U.S. Open cham­pion when John­son three-putted the fi­nal green from 12 feet.

“I like play­ing with Jor­dan,” John­son said. “No pres­sure, though.”

Not in the open­ing round, for sure, when the pres­sure will be on Spi­eth to get off to a good start in search of his third ma­jor cham­pi­onship of the year.

And maybe not even on Sun­day, when John­son could be one of the con­tenders to up­end Spi­eth and his chase for the third leg of the Grand Slam.

“I’m play­ing in the next two, so we’ll have to see,” John­son said.

If re­cent history is any in­di­ca­tion, John­son fig­ures to be in the mix at this Open, just as he was at the U.S. Open. John­son can only hope the out­come won’t be as cruel as it was at Cham­bers Bay, where he missed a 12-footer to win, then a four-footer com­ing back to miss a Mon­day play­off.

In­stead of be­ing known as a cham­pion who hit driver and 5- iron on the par-5 to get into po­si­tion for a win­ning ea­gle on the fi­nal hole, John­son must deal with a grow­ing rep­u­ta­tion of not be­ing able to close the big ones.

“I hit two great shots, and un­for­tu­nately my ball - I don’t know how it stayed where it did, above the hole up there, but un­for­tu­nately it stayed there and it was just a tough putt,” he said. “I was try­ing to make it, but I wanted it to barely go in, and it still went four feet by. Hit a good putt on the way back, and it just bounced and missed left.”

Dis­ap­point­ment in the fi­nal round is not new to John­son. He lost a PGA Cham­pi­onship in 2010 at Whistling Straits by ground­ing his club in an 18th-hole haz­ard he wasn’t aware ex­isted. He had the lead in the U.S. Open at Peb­ble Beach the same year be­fore col­laps­ing.

He in­sists he uses such set­backs as a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, much as he did when tak­ing a six­month ab­sence from the PGA Tour that has never been fully ex­plained.

Along with a new baby with fi­ancee Paulina Gret­zky, John­son be­lieves he is also fi­nally in com­mand of his game.

One of the long­est hit­ters in the game, John­son is among a hand­ful of the favourites at the Open in his first tour­na­ment since los­ing to Spi­eth at Cham­bers Bay.

John­son

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