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PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Dustin Johnson swiveled his neck to take a look at the cast bronze trophy resting on a table behind his right shoulder that will be awarded to the winner of the Valspar Championship. Designed by Malcolm DeMille, the distinctive trophy begins with a paint-brush stroke that reflects the title sponsor’s primary business and ends with a golf ball.
“It’s a nice trophy. I’d like to have it,” Johnson said during his pre-tournament interview on Wednesday. “It would look good on the shelf. I don’t know what it is, but it looks nice.”
Johnson has won 24 trophies during his career on the PGA Tour, including the Masters last year and the U.S Open in 2016, which he says he keeps in its case “because I want it to look nice,” while most of them are in boxes as Johnson is between homes.
The world No. 1 was on the verge of claiming the FedEx Cup at the Tour Championship in Atlanta in September and was paired with Sungjae Im whose caddie Bobby Brown previously worked for Johnson before he hired his brother Austin for that role. Brown sidled over to Johnson and teased him that he was on the bag for the “bad years,” when Johnson only won once or twice, before he dialed in his wedge game.
“Typical DJ, he gave me this look and said, ‘Bob, I’ve never had a bad year in my life,’ ” Brown recalled.
Johnson won earlier this year on the European Tour in Saudi Arabia but is in what to amounts to a mini-slump for him, five straight events without a top-10 finish including a missed cut in his Masters title defense and a tie for 13th at the RBC Heritage in his most recent start. But he’s confident he can return to his winning ways soon.
“I feel like it’s really close,” he said. “I just haven’t put it all together, especially for a week. But I feel like I’m driving it good again. Just the only thing, just a little off with the irons at Hilton Head. Obviously, I hit a lot of good shots, but just didn’t hit enough and made too many costly mistakes with the irons.”
It also doesn’t hurt that the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Golf Resort is one he’d always liked. This is his fourth appearance in the event highlighted by a tie for sixth in 2019. Johnson stood one stroke off the lead heading into the final round but failed to make a birdie on Sunday.
“You don’t have to shoot way under par,” Johnson said. “You just shoot a couple under each day, and you’re going to have a chance to win come Sunday.”
But defending champion Paul Casey may have put it best.
“What golf course doesn’t suit Dustin Johnson?” he said.
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