The Dismal Dustin season continues for Dustin Johnson.
D.J. joined the fray this week for the 3M up in Minnesota at the birdie-infested TPC Twin Cities. It’s a track where they typically go really, really low and the only thing low around D.J. might be his confidence.
While Rickie Fowler, Troy Merritt and Johnnie Vegas set the day one standard with seven-under par 64s, all D.J. could muster was a one-under par 70 and he had to finish birdie-birdie to get there. All one-under got you in the first round was a tie for 64th.
Things got a bit unsettling for the world’s No. 2 to start this week’s offering on the PGA Tour as his brother/caddie/pal Austin tested positive for the ongoing COVID problem, leaving D.J. caddieless. When things like that happen, the first go-to guy is the fella who sits in the equipment trailer and in Dustin’s case it was Keith Sbarbaro who works the TaylorMade traveling workshop.
What’s at stake for Johnson is the Tour’s longest active win streak. He’s won on Tour every year for the past 13 seasons and he hasn’t much time left if he wants to keep that streak alive.
Other than a victory in early February at the European Tour’s Saudi International, it’s been a quiet season for the now-world No. 2. Last week’s tie for eighth at The Open was just his second top-10 on Tour since February, but even that performance was marred by a third-round 73 that dropped him out of title contention.
It’s easy to see where D.J.’s under-performing. He’s 73rd in Strokes Gained Putting, 55th in Strokes Gaines Around The Green and 40th in Strokes Gaines With Approaches (to the green).
He’s been switching putters and drivers which indicates he’s hoping a change can turn things around. It’s not unusual for him to switch putters, he’s been known to switch mid-tournament.
So what’s up with D.J. as the playoffs loom on the horizon.
“Things are starting to turn around a little bit,” he said. “I felt like I haven’t had a great season so far, but I feel like the game, it’s starting to come back into form. I’m starting to see a lot more consistency with the game, starting to play a little bit better. I’m pleased with where the game’s at and pleased with the stuff that I’m seeing so far.”
What had to NOT please D.J. was his performance in the majors this year. He missed the cut at The Masters as defending champion then missed the cut again at the PGA in his home state. Bad stuff. He tied for 19th at the U.S.Open and finally got a top 10 last week at Royal St. George’s. One top 10 in four majors isn’t what great seasons are made of for a guy with D.J.’s level of talent.
D.J. isn’t inspired by the Olympics, don’t look for him there. His next outing will be the WGC event in Memphis that is the St. Jude stop and after that it’s right into the playoffs with the Northern Trust at Liberty National and the BMW moves to Maryland at Cave’s Valley, a new venue. Things wrap up at the Tour Championship after that.
Johnson is the defending FedEx Cup champion, he won last year thanks to all those strokes he was spotted at the Tour Championship.
But this go-round, he’s way down the list — 15th in the points standings which means unless he wins between now and then — no handicap strokes for D.J. at the Tour Championship.
It looks a pretty good bet he won’t repeat as the FedEx winner and most of all, that cool winning streak of his looks like it’s in danger coming to a sad conclusion.