BETHPAGE, USA (AFP) – After another major near-miss at the Masters, world number one Dustin Johnson hopes to end his major frustrations with a victory in this week’s PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.
The 34-year-old American, who won his only major title at the 2016 US Open, settled for a share of second place last month at Augusta, one stroke behind historic winner Tiger Woods.
It was Johnson’s 16th top-10 major result and eighth top-five effort in 39 major starts.
“Disappointed I wouldn’t go with, but a little frustrated sometimes just because I’ve had quite a few chances and I’ve felt like a few of them I really didn’t do anything,” Johnson said Tuesday.
“But that’s just how it is. It’s hard to win majors. If it was easy, a lot of guys would have a lot more than they do. It’s just tough.
“They’re always on tough golf courses and you’ve got to put four good rounds together. But I feel good coming into this week, and I feel like this is a golf course where I’ve had success on and I can play it well, especially in these conditions.”
Nearly two inches of rain in two days have left Bethpage Black playing long with thick rough, conditions where Johnson can thrive if he can keep the ball in the fairways.
“The course is playing extremely long. It sets up well for me. I feel like I can drive it good around here,” Johnson said.
“For me, it’s all about driving. I really like this course. But you’ve got to hit the fairways here. The rough is pretty penal. It’s not super deep, but it’s just really thick.”
Johnson won the WGC Mexico title in February, giving him a title in his first 12 US PGA seasons, a feat only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus have also done. That helped secure his spot atop the rankings.
Four rivals could overtake Johnson for number one this week, including 15-time major champion Woods, four-time major champion Rory McIlroy, three-time major winner and defending champion Brooks Koepka and 2013 US Open winner Justin Rose.
“It doesn’t matter either way, but it’s always nice to be number one,” Johnson said ahead of his third PGA in a row as number one.
The major differences Johnson sees in the PGA’s new May date and its old August spot are cooler weather and more time to rest ahead of the event, now removed from a busy time of the season.
“Mentally I’m coming in here very fresh and focused and ready to go,” Johnson said. “Is the game probably as sharp as it is after four weeks of big tournaments? Probably not. But I feel like I’m swinging really well.
“The game is in good form. Short game is going to be very important around here, especially out of this deep rough and the bunkers. If you do drive it in the rough, you’re going to have to lay up. Wedge game is going to be a big factor.”