June 14, 2017 / 11:26 PM / 2 years ago

Golf: Proud papa Johnson poised to defend U.S. Open title

ERIN, Wisconsin (Reuters) - Unflappable Dustin Johnson, fresh from the birth of his second son on Monday, said he likes his game and the Erin Hills layout ahead of defense of his U.S. Open title starting on Thursday.

Jun 14, 2017; Erin, WI, USA; Dustin Johnson addresses the media during his press conference following a practice round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Erin Hills. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson’s partner Paulina Gretzky and newborn River Jones Johnson are back home from the hospital in California and world number one Johnson is in rural Wisconsin focused on trying to become the first man since Curtis Strange in 1989 to repeat as U.S. Open champion.

Johnson arrived at Erin Hills on Tuesday afternoon, played some golf on the course, practiced on Wednesday morning, played nine holes and pronounced himself ready to go.

“It’s been very fun the last couple of days. Obviously having a new son on Monday was awesome,” he said. “Everybody’s healthy. Mom is healthy. The baby is healthy. So that’s good.

“They just got home today, so that’s exciting.

“She’s a lot more comfortable,” Johnson said about Paulina, “and everybody is healthy. Obviously that’s a big relief, not having to worry about them.

“But now I’ve got to play golf. This is why I’m here. I’m here to play golf. I’m here to compete. So that’s what my job is this week.”

Offsetting his late arrival at Erin Hills, Johnson was able to get an early look at the course after missing the cut at the Memorial earlier this month.

At 7,741 yards from the back tips, the par-72 links-styled track will be the longest course to stage a U.S. Open and may favor big hitters even more since recent thunderstorms have dumped considerable rain on the rural layout.

“With the weather conditions we’ve had the last few days the course is really soft and going to play long,” Johnson said. “I like the golf course. I think it sets up very well for me.”

Johnson, one of golf’s longest, most accurate players off the tee, was asked whether rivals might be intimidated going up against a power-hitting world number one and defending champion on the longest U.S. Open course ever.

“I hope so, he said. “Shouldn’t it?”

Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Gene Cherry

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