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Johnson’s drives key to success

by The Associated Press | May 19, 2022 at 2:26 a.m.
Dustin Johnson lines up his putt on the 18th hole during the first round of the AT&T Byron Nelson golf tournament in McKinney, Texas, on Thursday, May 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Emil Lippe)

TULSA -- Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth are examples of how quickly the landscape can change.

Look back one year, and Johnson was the No. 1 player in the world who had been runner-up in the previous two PGA Championships and among the favorites every time he played.

Going into this PGA Championship, which starts today at Southern Hills, he is No. 12. It's not the end of the world, but it's his lowest ranking in seven years, and the questions have changed. Instead of when he will add another major, it's about when he will win again.

Johnson has gone 27 starts over 15 months since winning the Saudi International.

"The thing for me has just been driving," Johnson said. He thought back to the Masters, where his driver was behaving so badly he switched to a 3-wood. That's not a bad option for most players, just not Johnson.

"I've never done that in my life -- 3-wood is the last club in my bag that I'd want to hit," he said. "I've always felt most comfortable with a driver."

That would be a good club for him at Southern Hills after its acclaimed restoration project. Unlike the last time the PGA was here in 2007 and players were hitting mostly irons off the tee. Now that it's at 7,556 yards for a par 70, the driver could go a long way.

"Obviously, this is a really good place to drive it straight for me," Johnson said.

A year ago, Spieth was No. 28 in the world, a month away from ending a long victory drought but still far away from his game being back to the form that made him a major force in golf at age 21.

Now the 28-year-old from Texas is No. 8 and coming off a particularly good stretch that followed an irritating missed cut at the Masters. Spieth won in Hilton Head the following week and then finished one shot behind in Dallas last week.

Tiger Woods still commands all the attention. The gallery was enormous for him playing nine holes on Monday and again on Wednesday in his final tuneup for his return to Southern Hills. Those around him felt it was a victory that he made it through 72 holes at the Masters in his first competitive tournament since his car crash.

"I've gotten stronger since then," Woods said. "It's still going to be sore, and walking is a challenge. I can hit golf balls, but the challenge is walking. It's going to be that way for the foreseeable future, for sure."

Not to be overlooked is the hand-wringing over the Saudi-funded series Greg Norman is orchestrating, set to start in three weeks outside London with still no idea who will be playing, with the PGA Tour denying releases required to play outside the country.

Johnson doesn't seem to get distracted by much of anything. He was courted heavily by the Saudi group at the start of the year before declaring he wanted to play against the best on the PGA Tour. He also had no small matter of a wedding to Paulina Gretzky just two weeks after the Masters.

Which was the greater distraction?

"Neither," he said. "Paulina did an unbelievable job with the wedding. I really didn't have to do much. I helped for about half an hour with the seating chart. That was about it. That was my whole contribution."


104th PGA Championship

WHEN Today-Sunday

WHERE Southern Hills, Tulsa (Par 70, 7,556 yards)

DEFENDING CHAMPION Phil Mickelson

TV ESPN/ESPN2 (today-Friday);

CBS (Saturday-Sunday)


  photo  Dustin Johnson hits from the fairway on the second hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament, Wednesday, May 18, 2022, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Matt York)
 
 
  photo  Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth talk on the driving range before a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament, Wednesday, May 18, 2022, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
 
 
  photo  Tiger Woods plays the second hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament, Wednesday, May 18, 2022, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Matt York)
 
 
  photo  Tiger Woods and Anirban Lahiri, of India, walk on the eighth hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament, Wednesday, May 18, 2022, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Matt York)
 
 
  photo  Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth talk on the driving range before a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament, Wednesday, May 18, 2022, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
 
 
  photo  Sergio Garcia, of Spain, walks to the green on the 13th hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament, Wednesday, May 18, 2022, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
 
 
  photo  Rory McIlroy, of North Ireland, tosses his ball on the way to the eighth hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament, Wednesday, May 18, 2022, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
 
 
  photo  Bryson Dechambeau hits from the bunker on the 13th hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament, Wednesday, May 18, 2022, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
 
 
  photo  Marc Leishman, of Australia, hits his tee shot on the fifth hole during a practice round for the PGA Championship golf tournament, Wednesday, May 18, 2022, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Matt York)
 
 

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