OAKMONT, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Twelve months after his U.S. Open dream became a nightmare with a three-putt on the final hole at Chambers Bay, Dustin Johnson was in upbeat mood on the eve of this year’s edition at Oakmont Country Club.
The athletic American has a power game that makes him capable of winning on any golf course and he will tee off in Thursday’s opening round buoyed by top-five finishes in his last two PGA Tour starts.
“It’s always good to be playing well coming into a U.S. Open because you know it’s going to be tough,” world number six Johnson, 31, told reporters on Wednesday after completing his preparations for the year’s second major championship.
”This is one place where you really need to control your golf ball. You’ve got to control your spin and where you want the ball to land, so it’s a premium to hit the fairways because the rough’s thick and deep.
“You can get a decent lie every once in a while, but the majority of them, they sit down, and it’s tough to control it. And then the fairway bunkers are almost a penalty stroke too because they’re so deep.”
Still seeking his first major title after recording 11 top-10s in the blue riband events, Johnson came closest to success at last year’s U.S. Open when he lined up a 12-foot eagle putt at the par-five 18th to secure the title.
However, he agonizingly three-putted from there to hand the trophy to fellow American Jordan Spieth as he finished a stroke adrift in a tie for second.
”I feel like I handled that situation good,“ Johnson said of his Chambers Bay experience. ”It wasn’t like I hit bad shots or did anything.
”Unfortunately, the greens weren’t as smooth as they could have been. This week, you don’t have to worry about that. If I miss a putt, then I can blame myself, not the greens, which I like.
“I feel like my game, in those situations, has held up just fine the past few times I’ve been in this situation. So that’s all I‘m trying to do is just give myself a chance on the back nine on Sunday.”
A nine-times winner on the PGA Tour who squandered a three-shot lead in the final round of the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach where he closed with an 82, Johnson knows that patience will be a prized commodity at treacherous Oakmont this week.
”It’s tough, but I think it’s in great shape,“ he said. ”It’s firm but it’s not overboard by any means. It’s going to reward good golf shots, but if you get out of position, it’s going to be very difficult.
“You’re definitely going to have to be patient out here. Par is a good score on any hole. If you look at the scores here over the years and the tournaments they’ve played, if you shoot even par, you’re going to do very well.”
Editing by Frank Pingue