DJ eyes sec­ond US Open ti­tle

Af­ter miss­ing the Mas­ters due to in­jury, he will be de­ter­mined to de­fend his crown

CityPress - - Sport - PULE MOKHINE pmokhine@city­

If there is any golfer who over­flows with con­fi­dence ahead of the US Open, it’s Dustin “DJ” John­son, who will play for the tro­phy again af­ter win­ning it last year. The year’s sec­ond ma­jor tees off at Erin Hills golf course in Erin, Wis­con­sin, on Thurs­day. The Amer­i­can, who is ranked num­ber one in the world, won last year’s ti­tle at the Oak­mont Coun­try Club in Penn­syl­va­nia to claim his first ma­jor ti­tle in his 29th ap­pear­ance in the big leagues.

How­ever, his vic­tory was shrouded in con­tro­versy as he was given a one-shot penalty af­ter his fi­nal round had fin­ished due to an in­ci­dent on the fifth green.

As DJ pre­pared to ad­dress the ball for a par putt, the ball moved slightly. He stepped away, say­ing that he had not ad­dressed the ball. Af­ter he spoke to an on-site rules of­fi­cial, John­son was told to carry on with his shot, which he suc­cess­fully putted.

He ended up win­ning by three strokes, ahead of Shane Lowry, Scott Piercy and Jim Furyk.

The mov­ing ball sparked an up­roar from a wide sec­tion of top golfers, who took a swipe at the US Golf As­so­ci­a­tion for the man­ner in which the mat­ter was han­dled.

Now John­son de­fends his man­tle at Erin Hill with the hope of play­ing a game de­void of any con­tes­ta­tion.

The 32-year-old will also at­tempt to be­come the first Ernie Els Charl Schwartzel Louis Oosthuizen Bran­den Grace Ge­orge Coet­zee Thomas Aiken player since fel­low Amer­i­can Cur­tis Strange in 1989 to win back-to-back US Open ti­tles.

John­son Missed the Mas­ters in April due to a back prob­lem, so he will be hop­ing to make his mark this month.

How­ever, the Erin Hills course is ex­pected to give all the con­tes­tants a good run for their money be­cause of its dif­fi­cult lay­out (see graphic). As usual, there will be stiff com­pe­ti­tion on the fair­ways with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of top cus­tomers such as North­ern Ire­land’s Rory McIl­roy and Aus­tralian Ja­son Day, who are among the favourites to clinch the ti­tle.

Many fans will be dis­ap­pointed as Phil “Lefty” Mickelson, a player who al­ways brings the crowds to the events he par­tic­i­pates in, this week in­di­cated that he was plan­ning to miss his first Open since 1993 be­cause he would be at­tend­ing his daugh­ter Amanda’s high school grad­u­a­tion, which co­in­cides with the first round on Thurs­day.

As usual, the ex­pected strong field will be awash with South African golfers (see box) who will want to make a big im­pres­sion.

Be­fore Jor­dan Spi­eth’s 2015 tri­umph, the event was last won by a non-Amer­i­can golfer – Ger­man Martin Kaymer – in 2014, which fol­lowed Bri­ton Justin Rose’s tri­umph in 2013.

It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how the tricks at Erin Hills get sur­mounted by the group of de­ter­mined com­peti­tors.

The 18-hole course was fe­s­ignef to ac­com­mo­fate the US Open in terms of the chal­lenge to the play­ers, the lo­gis­tics of the spec­ta­tors anf re­latef sup­port struc­ture It was built on farm­lanf in cen­tral Wis­con­sin. The nat­u­ral lan­f­s­cape anf per­fectly man­i­curef greens anf fair­ways make for stag­ger­ing beauty in the heart of the coun­try The course has tricky holes, with the fourth (a par-four) be­ing the most fe­man­f­ing. The fair­way is flankef by a hill­sife of healthy rough on the left anf a men­ac­ing bunker that juts into the fair­way from the right Top five play­ers to watch Ja­son Day (Aus­tralia) Age: 29 Ap­pear­ance: Sev­enth Dustin John­son (US) De­fend­ing cham­pion Age: 32 Ap­pear­ance: 10th Rory McIl­roy (North­ern Ire­lanf) Age: 28 Ap­pear­ance: Eighth Martin Kaymer (Ger­many) Age: 32 Ap­pear­ance: 10th Lee West­wood (Englanf) Age: 44 Ap­pear­ance: 18th

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