Johnson not giving up No. 1 without a fight
He opens with a 4-under 67 at THE NORTHERN TRUST
August 23, 2018
By Ben Everill and Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
- August 23, 2018
Dustin Johnson comments after Round 1 of THE NORTHERN TRUST
PARAMUS, N.J. – Dustin Johnson does have a pulse. We checked.
You might not know it, but such is the swagger and demeanor of the FedExCup leader – always appearing cool and calm.
Nothing much phases him. Not even a snap-hooked drive that ultimately sees him write a dreaded snowman on his card.
He just laughed it off.
It was his ninth hole of the day and on the same hole playing partner Brooks Koepka made eagle – producing a five-shot swing between the pair.
Nine holes later they both signed for a 4-under 67, just one shot behind a four-way tie for the lead.
Three birdies on his closing nine holes, including a near ace on the par-3 6th that cruelly lipped out, has Johnson projected to maintain his place on top of the FedExCup standings.
It is a spot he wants to keep.
“I'm fired up all the time. I just don't let you guys see it. You'll never know,” Johnson jokes.
“But obviously I've got a lot of fire running inside of me and there's a lot of things I want to do that I haven't done. So, yeah, that keeps pushing me.
“Winning the FedExCup is definitely a big accomplishment. It's something that I really would like to win. To be the FedExCup champion means obviously you played really well in the Playoffs but you also had a great year, too.”
Johnson entered the Playoffs with a slim 83-point lead over Justin Thomas. Thomas shot 2-under 69 in the same group.
“83 points in the Playoffs is not a big lead. So I'm going to have to play well if I want to keep the lead the next three events,” Johnson added.
Usually a pretty reliable driver of the ball, Johnson hit just six of 14 fairways on Thursday.
“Today was an unusual day for me. I haven't had the driver go this crooked in a long time. It had nothing to do with the driver. It was the drivee,” Johnson added.
“But I figured it out, and it doesn't matter. I can figure out a way to get around the golf course like I did today, even though I didn't have my best stuff. My iron play was good. My wedges were good. I can still figure out how to hit those close to the hole, and I did. And once we had made the turn, I think I hit most of the fairways when I was finishing.”
KEVIN TWAY KEEPS IT IN THE FAIRWAY
Kevin Tway (5-under 66) stands to make a leap from 85th in the FedExCup if he keeps this up, but all anyone wanted to talk about after his round was what his father would have said about it.
Eight-time PGA TOUR winner Bob Tway has followed his son’s progress at tournaments like the John Deere Classic this summer, but he’s not in New Jersey, so Kevin could only smile and hazard a guess.
“I think he’d like that I hit 10 fairways,” Kevin said. “I remember him watching (the Wyndham Championship) last week. One round, I wasn’t hitting any fairways, and my mom said he was on the bed cussing, like, ‘Just hit the fairway! It’s not that hard!’”
Kevin Tway, who made nearly 100 feet of putts Thursday, is asked wherever he goes about his relationship with his father, who made more than 680 TOUR starts and saw his career plateau with his win at the 1986 PGA Championship at Inverness.
“He knows my game probably better than anyone,” Kevin said of his dad, “so we talk just about every day. I always have him right here on my shoulder. He’s almost like a caddie out here for me. I’m always, ‘What would you do here?’ Stuff like that. We talk about it a lot. What he felt in certain situations, how he went about winning golf tournaments. I pick his brain a lot. He played at the highest level for 30 years; that’s a good tool to have.”
Kevin’s opening round didn’t come out of nowhere. He’s had a productive summer, including a T11 at the Wyndham Championship, T9 at the AT&T Byron Nelson, T5 at the Charles Schwab Challenge, and T6 at the Travelers Championship. He also shot 63 at the inaugural Morgan Hoffmann Foundation Celebrity Pro-Am at nearby Arcola Country Club on Monday. Although his playing partners were on him to break the course record, Tway said he didn’t care what he shot.
“That’s sometimes easier,” he said. “It’s always harder to do it when it really matters.”
So far, so good at THE NORTHERN TRUST.
HIDEKI ROLE REVERSAL … A year ago Hideki Matsuyama opened the FedExCup Playoffs as the number one seed after three wins before producing a dismal post-season effort. The Japanese star could only muster a MC-T23-T47-T26 Playoff run ultimately dropping him to eighth in the standings. But this season he’s hoping for a role reversal. Without a victory Matsuyama entered THE NORTHERN TRUST in 76th place on the standings. After an opening 4-under 67 at Ridgewood Country Club he has a chance to make amends this season. “I'm trying my best. I'm trying to get better every day, and hopefully the Playoffs will be good to me this year,” Matsuyama said. “I've been working hard and I'm seeing some improvements in my game, and hopefully that will carry on through the Playoffs and I can do a little better.”
WOODS PGA FORM DOESN’T TRAVEL … The last time we saw Tiger Woods he was putting serious heat on Brooks Koepka down the stretch at the PGA Championship. But his opening round at THE NORTHERN TRUST failed to elicit any of the huge roars and excitement we saw at Bellerive. Woods posted a solid even-par 71, five shots back of the morning wave lead. “Just didn't have the situations where I had the full club and I could go ahead and take a rip at it and start being aggressive and going after these flags,” he said. “I kept having to play a little defensive because I was taking more club, trying to shape it and take spin off. One of those days.”
Tiger Woods gets up and down for birdie at THE NORTHERN TRUST
JAMIE LOVEMARK - Opening round 66 holds a share of the morning wave lead.
VAUGHN TAYLOR - Looking to be a bubble buster after his early 66 has him projected to Boston.
TOMMY FLEETWOOD - Englishman chasing a big win in the USA opens with a 67.
BROOKS KOEPKA - The U.S. Open and PGA Championship winner continued his hot form with a solid 67.
JUSTIN THOMAS - FedExCup No. 2 opens with a 2-under 69.
PHIL MICKELSON - A wayward round still ended in just 68 shots to be well in the mix.
SEAN O’HAIR - Chasing a home final in two week’s time after an opening 66.
BRANDT SNEDEKER - Last week’s winner and Mr. 59 didn’t make the first tee … forced to withdraw with back spasms. Click here for more.
Tommy Fleetwood birdies second-straight hole at THE NORTHERN TRUST
QUOTABLESWe've seen guys come from 125. If you're in the Playoffs you have a good chance to get to East Lake. Just got to be in it to win it.
I just hit a God-awful shot. I haven't hooked a driver in a long time.I've not actually talked to him about it. I'd love to knock him off, and I'm sure he'd love to keep me where I'm at.
Brooks Koepka uses tight approach to set up birdie at THE NORTHERN TRUST
Low round: 66, by Kevin Tway, Jamie Lovemark, Vaughn Taylor, Sean O'Hair
Long drive: 341 yards, by Adam Scott (69) at the 8th hole
Long putt: 55 feet, 2 inches by Scott Stallings at the par-3 11th, which he birdied on the way to a 1-under 70.
Hardest hole: The 468-yard, par-4 7th and 470-yard, par-4 18th gave players fits. They averaged 4.269 on each.
Easiest hole: Co-leader Sean O'Hair was one of three players to eagle the 594-yard, par-5 3rd, which also yielded 53 birdies and played to a 4.538 average.
CALL OF THE DAY
For play-by-play coverage of the second round of THE NORTHERN TRUST, listen at PGATOUR.COM.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Dustin Johnson nearly aces the par-3 6th for Shot of the Day