Despite being the top-ranked player on Planet Earth, Dustin Johnson enters this PGA Championship as a big ol’ question mark. He withdrew from last week’s event, the AT&T Byron Nelson, due to knee “discomfort”. He doesn’t have a top-10 in any of this past six starts – particularly concerning because in his 10 events before this recent barren stretch, his worst finish was T-11.
One more uncertainty: the putter he’ll use this week at Kiawah’s Ocean Course. He knows which club will be in the bag come the first round – the name, however, is a different story. Check out this exchange with a reporter.
Q: What putter are you using this week?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: A TaylorMade.
Q: I understand that. Which model?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Honestly, I don’t even know the name of it. It’s a TaylorMade, though.
He is, if nothing else, a company man.
Johnson would elaborate the the flatstick he’ll game is “silver with a white shaft”. Connecting the dots here, it will not be the black TaylorMade Spider Itsy Bitsy Limited that he used to win 13 of his 24 PGA Tour titles, including the Masters last November.
The world No.1 has been known to rotate putters perhaps more than any other top player, and it appears he’s going back to the carousel ahead of his week on the Ocean Course’s paspalum greens. As far as his health goes, the famously laconic Johnson stayed true to form.
“Health is good,” he said. “I just wanted to spend more time making sure I was feeling 100 percent for this week. Done a lot of work at home and yeah, I feel really good coming into this week.”
Johnson said the knee has periodically given him issues for the past six months.
“It just didn’t feel right. I got an MRI, everything was fine,” he said. “It was the one I had surgery on about a year-and-a-half ago. Just got together with the doctor and physio down there that I use for my rehab and just put together a plan to get a little bit stronger. Yeah, it feels good though.”
Johnson has finished second in each of the past two PGA Championships: at Bethpage Black in 2019, where his last-day chase of Brooks Koepka came up short, and at TPC Harding Park in 2020, when he held the 54-hole lead, shot 68 and was leapfrogged by Collin Morikawa. He has four other top-10s in this event, including in 2010, when he missed a playoff at Whistling Straits after being penalised for grounding his club in a bunker on the 72nd hole.
“They are all annoying,” he said of the near-misses.
He did not have to suffer an annoying near-miss the last time the PGA Championship was at Kiawah, in 2012, when he finished tied for 48th. He was asked what part of his game needs to be firing to contend this time around.
“The putter. I mean, I feel like if I putt well, I play well all the time,” Johnson said.
The putter – you remember, the silver one with the white shaft.
PHOTO: Patrick Smith