Johnson eyes double glory

Golf US Open : American bids to be the first to win back-to-back titles in 28 years

Johnson eyes double glory

Dustin Johnson will aim to exploit his big-hitting prowess on the longest course in major championship history when he tees off at the US Open on Thursday, bidding to become the first back-to-back champion in 28 years.

The world number one won his first major in last year's US Open at Oakmont, after several near-misses, and is the bookmakers' favourite at the picturesque Erin Hills course in rural Wisconsin.
Hosting a major for the first time, the intimidating 7,741 yard, par-72 layout is not for the faint-hearted, promising a physical and mental challenge for the very best.

Many holes feature blind or semi-blind tee-shots, while the course's mid-section runs on an outward-inward path that will ensure players face variable winds.

Factor in fairways bordered by deep fescue grass that some have already described as unplayable, and it appears likely that the tournament will live up to its billing as the toughest test in golf.

Johnson, however, who missed the Masters in April after a freak accident where he slipped on steps and hurt his back on the eve of the tournament, was adamant the length of Erin Hills would suit his game.

‘Difficult tournament’

"It's just a very, very difficult tournament to win," the 32-year-old said, noting the US Open challenge and the reputation of this year's venue.

"I like really tough golf courses. I tend to focus more and play better. I like knowing par is a good score for some reason. I don't know why. I play better when I'm playing for pars."
If he defends his title, Johnson will be the first man to win back-to-back US Opens since Curtis Strange in 1988 and 1989.

With Tiger Woods absent, still struggling to resurrect his career after back surgery, and Phil Mickelson likely to skip the tournament to attend his daughter's high school graduation, this year's US Open could mark the end of an era.

If Mickelson fails to show as expected -- he retains a tee-time despite vowing not to attend -- it will be the first time since 1994 that neither player has featured in the first round of the US Open.

World number two Rory McIlroy has declared himself ready despite a frustrating season dogged by niggling injuries.

The Northern Irish star has played only one event since the Masters after rib and back problems forced him to withdraw from the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

McIlroy arrived in Wisconsin last week to begin surveying a course he believes he can thrive on.
"I don't think it's a secret that I feel like my driver is one of the biggest weapons in my bag," McIlroy said on Tuesday. McIlroy was told that the tournament officials had decided to mow down some areas of the tall fescue that frames the fairways at Erin Hills.

McIlroy had just spoken with reporters about how eager he was to attack the long, links-styled, rolling farmland course off the tee. However, he was left incredulous when informed that some of the fescue lining the generous fairways was being mowed.

"Really? We have 60 yards from left line to right line," an exasperated McIlroy said. "You've got 156 of the best players in the world here. If you can't hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home. The last six majors -- including Johnson's maiden US Open victory -- have been won by players who had never won a major before.

One of the likeliest candidates to continue that streak at Erin Hills is 22-year-old Spaniard Jon Rahm. Rahm, who turned pro in mid-2016 and claimed his maiden PGA Tour win at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in January, said he is ready for the challenge of Erin Hills.

Liked the story?

  • 0

    Happy
  • 0

    Amused
  • 0

    Sad
  • 0

    Frustrated
  • 0

    Angry