Sunday, December 17, 2017
Golf

Dustin Johnson's confidence shows heading into British Open

TROON, Scotland — The smile spoke louder than anything Dustin Johnson had to say Wednesday at the British Open.

His game has never been better. Just one month ago, Johnson was known as golf's best athlete who had won every year on the PGA Tour since 2008 — the longest streak since Tiger Woods — but who had everything go wrong in the majors.

Now he's the U.S. Open champion and a favorite at the British Open who can move to No. 1 in the world with a victory.

But that's not what brought the biggest smile at his news conference. It was a question about whether he could think of anything that stressed him out.

Anyone who has spent time around Johnson, 32, during his eight full years and 11 victories on the tour — and finally, a major — knows Johnson doesn't get too worked up over anything. Not the two-shot penalty on the final hole of the 2010 PGA Championship for grounding his club in a bunker that cost him a shot at that title ("I still don't think that was a bunker," he said). Not the three-putt from 12 feet that cost him a shot at the U.S. Open title last year.

Not even a peculiar decision by the USGA during the final round of last month's U.S. Open at Oakmont to tell Johnson he might be penalized one stroke after his round, meaning he had to play the last seven holes not knowing his score. He played them in par to win by three.

Another question: Has the attention as a major champion been difficult to manage?

He smiled.

"I haven't noticed," Johnson said.

Johnson is that rare breed of golfer who can manage to entertain without being all that revealing.

Even so, his level of comfort was never more evident than Wednesday, particularly when he finished his 20-minute news conference. Walking down from the stage, he plopped his 6-foot-4 frame on the top step and held court with a small group of reporters to talk about his strategy at Royal Troon, his equipment change for a week of links golf (a 2-iron and 3-iron, only three wedges) and how many shots he has to give his future father-in-law, hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky, when they play.

"He won't play with me," Johnson said. "He only plays if he can be my partner."

Coming off victories in the U.S. Open and the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational, Johnson has moved past Jordan Spieth to the No. 2 ranking in the world. He can knock Jason Day out of the No. 1 spot if he wins this weekend and Day finishes worse than 10th alone.

Johnson was told he was a co-favorite with Day among the bookies. He was asked if he was good with that or if he even cared.

Another smile.

"Honestly, I don't care," he said. "I mean, I like my chances. But I go into every tournament liking my chances.

"I always expect to come out and perform and to contend. But I mean, it's definitely a little bit different coming out and not trying to win that first major. That's the biggest difference."

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