CHASKA, Minnesota (Reuters) - Dustin Johnson’s “ridiculous” ability to overpower golf courses with his length and precision could be the key to American Ryder Cup glory this week, according to twice U.S. Open winner Andy North.
The 32-year-old Johnson is ranked second in the world behind Australian Jason Day having won three PGA Tour events this season.
He secured his first major championship victory in the U.S. Open at Oakmont in June and has been a model of consistency all year, accumulating 15 top-10 finishes in 22 tournaments.
Europe’s talisman Rory McIlroy may have landed Tour Championship and FedExCup series honors in Atlanta on Sunday but North believes his fellow countryman is as good as anyone in the game at the moment.
“Dustin is one good reason why I feel like the United States are the favorites,” the ESPN analyst told Reuters in an interview.
“He wasn’t on the U.S. team two years ago and he’s a powerful player who is playing some of the best golf he’s ever played.”
North, who made one appearance in the biennial team event when the Americans lost for the first time in 28 years at The Belfry in 1985, said Johnson was as accurate off the tee as he was long.
“It’s not just about length with Dustin, he’s very, very straight too,” the 66-year-old explained.
”He’s as good a driver as we have out there right now in terms of accuracy and distance. I’ve had a chance to walk with him for a lot of rounds and what he’s doing to golf courses is ridiculous.
“When you hit it down the fairway 340 yards, I don’t care how long the hole is, it’s not very difficult,” said North.
“Dustin’s doing some things out on the course right now that we all thought he might be able to do. I think he’s figured it all out.”
North, who won the U.S. Open in 1978 and 1985, is extremely confident that Davis Love III’s American team can prevent Darren Clarke’s Europeans from bagging the trophy for an unprecedented fourth straight edition.
”I really like our chances,“ he said. ”A real easy way is to add up the combined world ranking numbers and our total is so much lower than Europe‘s.
”The fact that Europe have six rookies is a big deal. We’ve
seen rookies play exceptionally well in the past but what are the odds of all six playing well at the same time?,” added North who was talking to Reuters on behalf of espn.co.uk.
“I wouldn’t think six rookies in a team would be as good as six veterans.”
North said the Ryder Cup, now viewed as the greatest rivalry in golf, had grown beyond all recognition since he featured in the competition 31 years ago.
Europe’s triumph under captain Tony Jacklin at The Belfry was the catalyst for a startling turnaround in fortunes that has led to Europe winning 10 of the last 15 contests.
”It was not nearly as big an event when I played in it,“ he added. ”It was our team that started Europe’s run in 1985.
“It’s a great event and I hope both teams come in with their guys playing great and that they can really put on a show.”
The Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National starts on Friday.
Editing by Frank Pingue