Dustin Johnson Ready to Jump Major Hurdle
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Championship

DJ knows his bunkers at AAC

Just short of a year ago, Dustin Johnson made a costly blunder on the 72nd hole at Whistling Straits in the infamous bunker-not-a-bunker incident at the ’10 PGA Championship. He incurred a two-shot penalty to miss joining Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson in a playoff for the major title, but as we’ve learned, DJ isn’t one to harp on mistakes from the past.

He also won’t be reading the local rules sheet.

Asked if he looked at the rules sheet at Atlanta Athletic Club for this week’s PGA, Dustin said, laughing, “No, I’ve never looked at one and probably never will.”

At least he’s not kidding himself. That’s his caddie’s job. Now that he has Joe LaCava on his bag, trust me when I say Joe won’t let Dustin make a similar mistake.

“The only time you ever look at it is if it’s preferred lies or not, that’s the only time it really matters, or my caddie has always got one just in case,” added Johnson, who finished tied for second at the British Open and tied for 23rd at the US Open this season.

Besides, he won’t encounter the same uncertainty over whether or not he’s actually in a bunker at AAC.

“If I go back to Whistling Straits, I might put one in my yardage book so I can look at it on every hole,” said Dustin with a wry smile. “Here, the bunkers are all defined.”

While DJ has never watched the video replay of the unfortunate moment (followed by the heart-wrenching image through the window when DJ changes his score from a 5 to a 7), he’s seen plenty of pictures.

“It seems like all the pictures that people want me to sign are like me hitting that shot,” he said, laughing. “It’s like, thank you.”

Johnson has become a regular on the first page of the leaderboard on Sundays, but he’s yet to seal the deal. Of course, there was the ’10 US Open at Pebble Beach, where he had a three-shot lead going into the final round and shot an 82. And a few months later there was Bunker-gate at Whistling Straits. Most recently, at the Open last month, he was closing in on eventual champ Darren Clarke when he pushed a 4-iron out of bounds on the 14th hole to halt his surge.

As a friend of mine dubbed, “Dustin Johnson pulled a Dustin Johnson.”

“I’ve played well in the final rounds the last two majors where I’ve really been in contention,” said Johnson. “I’ve played pretty well, and there’s one shot here or one shot there, and I’ve probably got a victory. You know, just got to keep working on it and keep on putting myself in position to win.”

No one is doubting DJ’s potential or ability to win multiple majors — it’s a matter of when, not if. Maybe the stars will finally align this week. After all, as one of the game’s longest hitters, if he’s driving it well, he’ll have an advantage at AAC, especially in the tough stretch of closing holes.

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)