The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT)
Johnson shoots 66, shares early lead at Players
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Dustin Johnson is using a new technique for his putting and he likes the results.
Frustrated over not seeing enough putts go in over the last three months, Johnson tried the “Aim Point” method that some players use to help them read the greens. He opened with six birdies on the back nine, only once had a putt over 3 feet for par and wound up with a 6-under 66 to share the early lead at The Players Championship.
Alex Noren and Webb Simpson also were at 66 among the early starters Thursday.
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, playing together for the first time in nearly four years, were out in the afternoon when the light wind was a little stronger. Johnson and the early birds couldn’t ask for better scoring conditions at the TPC Sawgrass.
Johnson, whose No. 1 ranking is in jeopardy this week, made the putts he had been missing in Mexico and Riviera, at Augusta National and Hilton Head.
So he had one of his coaches, Allen Terrell, teach the method to Austin Johnson, his brother and caddie. And then the world’s No. 1 player picked it up quickly, and they were on their way.
“I was just not making enough putts,” Johnson said. “It’s definitely helped. Because I’m a feel putter, anyway, and so the way you’re doing it really is you’re just feeling. So it definitely works. I was pretty good the first time I switched. I had done it a little bit, like messing around with it. I’m very pleased with the way I putted today.”
It involves a player holding up one or two fingers, depending on the length of
the putt, to help determine.
“The only thing I don’t like is holding up fingers,” Johnson said. “I make AJ do that.”
The scoring was so easy that 43 of the 72 players who teed off in the morning broke par.
Defending champion Si Woo Kim had the lead until two late bogeys.
He had to settle for a 67, still a strong start considering that no one has ever won back to back in the PGA Tour’s premier event.
Also at 67 was Keith Mitchell, who only got into the tournament Wednesday when Paul Casey had to withdraw with an injury. Mitchell played nine holes of practice on Tuesday and Wednesday, and made his debut with four straight birdies at the start.
All that ruined his day was a double bogey at the par-3 third hole, his 12th of the day.
“I don’t want to say it was a surprise. I’ve been playing well lately,” Mitchell said. “I was surprised to be able to play, first of all, so that was more of the surprise, just to be able to tee it up. When we did, we just tried to take advantage of our opportunity.”