Johnson, No Stranger to U.S. Open Lead, Will Try to Catch Kaymer
By Dave Shedloski
VILLAGE OF PINEHURST, N.C. – Dustin Johnson knows from first-hand experience that a lead in the U.S. Open is safe only when the trophy is being awarded.
Johnson, 29, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., is among a large pack trailing runaway 36-hole leader Martin Kaymer in the 114th U.S. Open, and while it’s a bit discouraging to be eight behind going into the weekend at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club’s Course No. 2, the competition is far from settled. After consecutive rounds of 1-under 69, Johnson sits at 138, a rather nice score, except in relation to where Kaymer stands after back-to-back 65s.
“I would have taken it [being 2 under par] on Wednesday. And, no, I wouldn't have thought it would be eight shots behind,” said Johnson.
“You always think through Thursday, Friday, 3, 4, 5 under probably is going to be leading. But obviously Martin's playing very well, and that 10 under is very good around here for two rounds.”
Johnson has been no slouch, though had he holed a few more putts he might be in better position going into Saturday’s key third round. He played solidly, offsetting three bogeys with four birdies, but he missed a couple of short-range birdie tries, and his bogey on the par-3 sixth hole came after missing a 1-foot putt.
“I’m just off a fraction with the putter, and you can’t be a fraction off here,” he said.
Certainly, he has no more than a fraction of room for error if he wants to catch Kaymer, the winner of the 2010 PGA Championship who benefited from a mistake by Johnson on the 72nd hole when he grounded his club in a bunker at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis., and incurred a two-stroke penalty. Kaymer then beat Bubba Watson in a three-hole playoff.
Of course, Kaymer would give everyone a bit more hope if he should slip up, which is what happened to Johnson in the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links. Leading by three strokes through 54 holes after a brilliant 66 in the third round, and seemingly in control of all facets of his game, Johnson faltered on Sunday. He made a triple bogey that included a whiff on the second hole en route to an improbable 82. That left an opening for Graeme McDowell to capture the title.
Holding a lead is one thing. Winning is another. Johnson has won eight times on the PGA Tour, including one each of his first seven years.
Closing out the championship is the ultimate challenge, however.
“Well, anything can happen. As you all know, anything can happen in a U.S. Open,” Johnson said. “This golf course is tough. If you get just a little bit off with your driver and your irons, you're going to have a long day.”
Johnson said he wouldn’t press to try to get closer to the leader.
“I've got a good game plan, I'm going to stick to it. If I keep hitting it like I am, then I'm going to keep shooting good scores.”
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work frequently appears on usga.org and usopen.com.