It was supposed to be the year of Dustin Johnson. The long-hitting, easy-going 27-year-old won two events last season, was in the final group in both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship, and was coming into 2011 with just about every eye in the golf world on him.
But things haven't gone the way most would have thought. What's a good way to change that? By changing the way he's played the final round of major championships that he's contended in.
On Sunday at Royal St. George's, Johnson will get that chance.
It is far from a surprise that he is playing so well in a tournament like this. We've been reminded year in and year out that long hitters can contend in this tournament, and although it isn't a prerequisite for success, it definitely helps avoid some of the troubles that regular guys would find.
Johnson's 68 tied Rickie Fowler for low round of the day, and it was good enough to land him in the final group on Sunday for the third time in the last five majors. We know how those turned out. The first was at Pebble Beach a year ago, where Johnson crumbled, posting an ego-sucking 82 in the final round. It looked like more of the same at the PGA Championship just two months later, but Johnson gutted it out down the stretch, had a one-shot lead heading into the final hole, and from then on, Bunkergate is the best description of what went down.
But this tournament is different. It's a place where creativity is key, but pure brut and strength can overpower the golf course. Who knows what the weather will be like on Sunday, but if Johnson can get off to a hot start, unlike the last two times he's been in this position, it might just be his time.
Heading into this week, a lot was made about the drought of American golf. With 18 holes left, two of the brightest starts from the States are in contention. Should be a fun final round, wouldn't you say?