CHARLOTTE, North Carolina – Dustin Johnson reckons he may be poised to give a winning performance in his “home game” this week and shed four months of frustration at the PGA Championship at North Carolina’s Quail Hollow starting on Thursday.
World number one Johnson, who grew up an hour away in South Carolina, said many factors were coming together for him this week at the year’s last golf major, and that he rated his form at 8.5 on a scale of 10.
“I’ve been working hard on the game. I feel like it’s finally coming back into form,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “Last week I felt like I got some things worked out in the swing that were just holding me back a little bit.
“Right now, I feel it’s close to when I was playing really well before Augusta.”
Johnson firmly ruled the world of golf after successive wins at the Genesis Open at Riviera, the WGC-Mexico and WGC-Match Play in a brilliant February-to-March stretch.
A huge favourite going into April’s US Masters, the big-hitting American slipped on some stairs where he was staying in Augusta and hurt his back, forcing him to withdraw and return to the drawing board after time off recovering.
“Obviously it’s really frustrating. But things happen. You’ve just got to deal with them, and I feel like the golf game’s in really good shape right now,” he said. “I feel like I’m driving it really well again.
Thanks to everyone who came out today despite the weather. Feels like a home event for me. pic.twitter.com/Kwp5fsDnnd
“Things happen, and so now I’ve just got to fight and practice and work hard to get back to where I was.”
Johnson missed cuts at The Memorial and US Open, and tied for 54th at the Open Championship.
But a tie for eighth at the Canadian Open and a share of 17th at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational have helped restore confidence.
Johnson, the 2016 US Open champion, said this might be the time and place to get back to the winner’s circle.
“I grew up about an hour down the road. My family will be up watching, supporting me. I’ve got a lot of fans in this area and then obviously Columbia (SC) is not that long of a drive,” said Johnson. “It’s kind of a home game for me, so it’s nice.”
Johnson has also had many frustrating disappointments at majors, including the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, where he was penalised for grounding his club in what was ruled a bunker on the 72nd hole that kept him from joining a playoff.
“No, I don’t think it owes me one,” he said about the 2010 PGA title that eluded him. “It was my fault. I grounded a club in what they still say is a bunker,” he said to laughter from reporters.
“But obviously, it’s a major championship. It’s a tournament that I would definitely like to win, and I feel like there is no better week than this one.”
Meanwhile, the PGA Championship will move from August to May, starting in 2019, the PGA of America announced on Tuesday. PGA of America CEO Pete Bevacqua confirmed the news at a joint press conference with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan at Quail Hollow.
“The landscape of golf is changing,” Bevacqua said, citing the reintroduction of golf in the Olympics as a major reason for the switch.
“We felt it was important as an organisation to seize this opportunity.”
The switch will bring about a reshuffling of the order in which the four majors are held.
Instead of being the final major of the year, the PGA Championship will become the second of the season, after the April Masters. The US Open in June will be the third major, with the British Open in July concluding the majors schedule.
The PGA Championship has been held in August since 1972, except for last year, when it was played in July to accommodate golf’s return to the Olympics.
Monahan also announced that the Players Championship would move from May to March.