Saturday, 15 Dec 2018
Sport

Dustin Johnson fights his own game until Carnoustie lands knockout blow | Kevin Mitchell | Sports

I t is usually all or nothing for Dustin Johnson. After an opening day, when Carnoustie intimidated a few, seduced others and encouraged the usual suspects, the nervous dance danced to the cut on a Friday that brought rain, wind, and more frustration to the 147th Open, too much for the # 1 player in the world

It's strange to see such a great athlete swinging with all the necessary weapons between triumph and failure, but his game is so finely tuned that when it's marginal, it can knock like an old banger. On the first day, Johnson was a Rolls Royce with a missing spark plug. On the second day he stormed and crashed. Four bogeys and one double canceled five birdies in a second-round 72, which will not save him from the ax.

In January, the 34-year-old American seemed ready to turn 2018 into a vintage. After Justin Thomas had briefly interrupted his reign as number 1 in the world rankings in May, he took back his crown at the St. Jude Classic and was one third later at the US Open, after he was led by four on Friday night

It would not be a Friday night that could be remembered despite a brave fight. The 2016 US Open Champion had the pedigree and the ability to destroy the course; What he lacked was patience. On Thursday he went with an average of 366 yards on the intended 6-10 holes, hit only half of the fairways, 60% of the greens and his 33 putts did not help him much. Overall, it was a failure of strategy and execution. As a partner of Wayne Gretzky's daughter Paulina, he was familiar with the concept of skating on thin ice. [Johnson] On Friday, Johnson knew what he needed to do: do not go crazy. He reduced his tee-off ambitions on the selected driving fairways and hit them an average of 318 yards, a drop of 48 yards – but he still struggled for precision. As his putting improved, he found less than half of the fairways and 56% of the greens in regulation.

A birdie and two bogeys took him three out of the projected section before he reached the bend. When he exploded for the second consecutive day on the 18th – a double bogey this time after a triple – he looked lost.

Earlier, as the drizzle abated, the rivals dropped birdies like unused betting slips. His namesake Zach Johnson (who later revealed that he is sometimes called Dustin but doubted that DJ was ever called Zach) was playing in front of him and already had three of them. Z would finish five shots before D that day.

For Dustin it was a fight on two fronts: with his own game and with the course. He could not find his radar at the tee, and with six holes that had eight holes left and the main contenders vanished, rain and wind rose, an irritant that also made it possible for the cut line to move] Johnson tore his jaw because of the opportunities and the weather. At four o'clock in the morning he grabbed a fifth birdie at 16 and was surprised at the gallery. He was one to play outside the cut with two – holes that had given up only four birdies to the 24 players who had gone before him. But a bogey on 17 and the doubles on the last were knockout punches.

In 10 visits to the Open, Johnson has missed the cut twice, just missed Darren Clarke at Sandwich 2011, made the top 10 at Lytham in 2012 and again two years ago in Troon, as well as 2013 and 2015. 2013 it's not always a pleasing visit for an under-the-radar champion whose unobtrusive personality and southern drawl are a wild disguise

It would be little consolation to him that his excellent compatriot Thomas (the triple bogey, double -Bogey, Double-Bogey-Mid-Round) and Jimmy Walker were similarly crushed by one of the hardest courses in golf.

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