For Dustin Johnson, it doesn’t matter whether it’s February or June, conditions are soft or firm, it’s a regular PGA Tour event or a major championship, he just plays his best golf at Pebble Beach. Entering the week, DJ, who won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AM the past two years, was considered a favorite to contend in the 110th US Open. Now, going into the final round, he’s the 54 hole leader at 6-under with a three stroke advantage over Graeme McDowell.
So why does he feel so comfortable at Pebble?
He can’t quite explain it. “I don’t know. The first time I walked out here I loved the place. And I really enjoy playing golf here. You couldn’t ask for a more beautiful place. And I just really enjoy it.”
As we all know, the course is set up drastically more difficult than it is for the AT&T — even Dustin said so on Monday and again on Saturday. “It’s not even close to the same golf course.”
In fact, he told me he didn’t think he could shoot a score like 65 unless he played “really, really good.” Well, he’s exceeding his own expectations, posting a 66 on Saturday.
Don’t expect him to overthink and play defensively. “Nothing is going to change with my game plan tomorrow. I’m driving it really straight now, I’m confident in the driver and I like to hit it.”
And it also goes really far — earlier this week Tiger described him as “stupid long.” Which actually might explain DJ’s mastery of Pebble despite the grueling US Open conditions.
“I’m hitting my driver really straight, which is a big advantage for me, especially because if I’m in the fairway, then I’ve got a lot shorter iron coming into the flag, and I can stop the ball.”
While those prowling behind him on the leaderboard may have more experience, he’s not fazed.
“It’s going to be like the rest of the day,” he said. “I’m going to have to be really patient. If I keep hitting like I’ve been hitting and putting it in the spots on the green, then I’m going to be tough to beat.”
When told Graeme McDowell said he has to go home and sleep on a three-shot lead and see how he feels in the morning, Dustin replied, “I think I’m going to be feeling good. I put myself in a great position for tomorrow. It’s going to be very hard out there.”
Wait, he knows he’s leading going into Sunday at the US Open, right? I like his chances. He uttered almost the same words before the tournament and look where that got him. More important, being “stupid long” is a tremendous asset. Sure, one missed drive is all it takes to crumble, but unless the old Tiger truly is back or someone manages to go stupid low, then it’s going to be hard to match Dustin.
[Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images]