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RIDGELAND, S.C. – Fair warning.
Just in time for next week’s U.S. Open, Dustin Johnson is getting dialed in.
Shaking off recent struggles, the world No. 1 turned in a bogey-free, 6-under-par 65 Thursday to grab a share of the early lead in the first round of the Palmetto Championship at Congaree.
The scary part is his scorecard didn’t include a single birdie on the three par 5s, and he missed two birdie putts inside 8 feet. And his peers should take notice: The last time Johnson opened with a 65 or better on the PGA Tour, he won the Masters. In all, he’s won five of 16 times on Tour when opening with a 65 or better.
“I felt like I’ve been swinging well for a while now, just haven’t really seen the results or seen the scores,” Johnson said. “I made a few putts. I just played solid golf, finally put a round together.”
He’s had a hard time putting anything together this year. His lone top-10 on the PGA Tour came back in February and in his other seven starts, he finished north of 45th three times and missed two cuts, including in his most recent start in the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.
In one seven-hole stretch, he hit every approach to within 11 feet. He found 10 of 14 fairways and ended his day by chipping in for birdie from 81 feet.
“It was OK,” he said about his putting. “The greens are kind of tricky to read. I missed a short one there on the par-3 fifth. But I hit the putt right where I wanted to, it just broke hard right and I didn’t see that in the putt. I’m happy with the way I rolled it. Obviously 6 under was a good score, but I still missed quite a few short makeable putts.
“The putting’s been off or it’s just like small little mistakes that you shouldn’t make, so sometimes it’s taken a little bit of time away and kind of clearing my head and definitely it helps. Put in a lot of good work last week and I feel like I’m swinging good, so if I can keep the putter rolling it’s going to be a fun week.”
Johnson shared the lead with Doc Redman, who tied for 42nd in last week’s Memorial and then started this week by withdrawing from the U.S. Open final qualifier in Columbus, Ohio in his first round.
Turns out it was the best thing for him.
“I played 10 holes and then decided I had enough. We had a long rain delay and I was just ready to get home,” Redman said. “I spent Tuesday at home and then drove up Wednesday morning, which is what I needed. Memorial is such a long, hot, brutal week and I played really well the last three days there and so I was just trying to keep that going into this week and play well.
“It’s just been a lot of hard work the past few weeks. I know I’ve been playing well and it’s a pretty cool golf course. I was able to hit some good shots and make some putts and just kind of next thing I know it was kind of going well.”
Jhonattan Vegas stood alone in third with 66. A group at 67 included Patrick Rodgers and a large group at 68 included Tommy Fleetwood.
Among the late starters were Brooks Koepka, Ian Poulter, Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick.