By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
FARMINGDALE, N.Y -- A new course and a new year. But no matter the change in venue and date, Dustin Johnson continues to play well in his title defense at The Barclays.
The lanky South Carolinian opened with a solid 67 that left him in a tie for seventh, four strokes off the early lead behind set by Padraig Harrington. Johnson made five birdies and just one lost-ball bogey on a day that featured calm conditions and enough humidity to keep the greens receptive and allow players to score.
Johnson, who tied for 40th when the U.S. Open was played on this
same Bethpage State Park Black Course in 2009, has a good track
record in the FedExCup Playoffs. He won the BMW Championship in
2010 on the way to an 11th-place finish in the FedExCup and The
Barclays last year helped him finish 19th.
"It's the FedExCup, so it's an important tournament," Johnson said. "It was maybe not quite the feel of a U.S. Open, but it's definitely ... a big event. It's the first event of the Playoffs, and this is one week where ... if you play well, you can move up the leaderboard a lot."
Johnson, who won The Barclays last year at Plainfield (N.J.) Country Club, set the tone for the day when he hit his approach at the first hole to 4 inches. He two-putted the par-5 fourth from 42 feet, made a 17-footer at the eighth, a 7-footer at No. 10 and a 29-footer at the 13th. The third par-5 was a bit of an adventure as he lost his drive to the right in a waste area and went on to make his lone bogey.
Johnson has enough power to prosper on a day like Thursday when he only found seven fairways. He still managed to hit 14 of 18 greens and the putter was relatively cooperative with 29.
"I don't think the course is much different than it was in the U.S. Open," Johnson said. "Today there wasn't much wind, so that definitely helps. This golf course, if it gets windy, it gets really hard to hit the fairways, and if you don't drive it in the fairway this golf course is very tough.
"... Today they had it set up very well. With no wind, you've got to kind of attack the golf course."