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Dustin Johnson a U.S. Open contender? It sure looks that way

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Dustin Johnson / Getty Images

Admit it, you probably weren't considering Dustin Johnson for your U.S. Open pool at the beginning of the week.

It's OK, we don't blame you. Having come off an 11-week layoff following a back injury that shelved the 27-year-old for the Masters, it seemed likely that Johnson would need a couple of competitive tournaments to work the kinks out of his game.

It's rare that a guy comes bursting out of the gates after an extended layoff -- even when that guy happens to be one of the best golfers on the planet.

However, after Sunday, maybe we should revise that to say most golfers need a couple tournaments to work the kinks out ... except Dustin Johnson. Following a solid T-19 finish at the Memorial -- that included finishing in the top 10 in the field in putts per GIR (fourth) and driving distance (ninth) -- Johnson built on the momentum by winning the FedEx St. Jude Classic in dramatic fashion with back-to-back birdies on the 16th and 17th to pick up the sixth win of his career.

If winning in his second week back wasn't impressive enough, here's a stat to chew on: Johnson's six wins are more than any golfer in his 20s. We keep talking about Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler being the guys to carry the torch, and rightfully so. They've both been in the headlines this year for doing some notable achievements. But after Sunday's win, we might not want to forget about Johnson just yet.

Despite winning at least once in each of the last five years, it always feels like we're talking about the guy as someone who has never fulfilled his talent. They say that winning cures everything, but for Dustin Johnson, it always felt like just giving people a taste wasn't a enough.

Everybody wanted more from him -- and rightfully so. Considered the best athlete on the PGA Tour, there's no question Johnson has the game to win tournaments in bunches. However, it seemed like anytime we started to pump up his game, he had a letdown.

Getting oh-so-close at the 2010 PGA Championship and the 2011 British Open proves he has all the tools in his bag. But the mental lapses still painted the picture of a golfer who needed to grind, and stay in the moment, when the pressure started to mount.

Johnson did that on Sunday in Memphis with two birdies in his final three holes. And yet, this isn't a knock on the FedEx St. Jude Classic, it wasn't in the biggest spot. Sure, it was a tour stop on Sunday and a seven-figure check was on the line, but we need to see him do the exact same thing on Sunday in, say, San Francisco.

Based on the way he's playing at the moment, it's not out of the question to think he should be considered a serious contender. Even with the winds that are expected to wreak havoc later next week, Johnson's previous history at Whistling Straits and Royal St. George's tells you he can thrive in blustery conditions.

Throw in a solid short game (his putting really has come around in the last few weeks) and you have a guy with all the tools to take on golf's most grueling test. The only thing missing is moxie to close it out.

Johnson proved he has it in him on Sunday. It's time to see him put it all together in a major championship. Olympic Club would be the perfect place to make it happen.

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