Can DJ play to the rhythm at Oakmont?

The US Open Championship 2016 gets underway at Oakmont Country Club on Thursday and Dustin Johnson will be desperate to claim his first major triumph. Can he get it done this time?

Johnson seems to have it all…

He is tall and strong – the bearded beast stands at well over six foot and weighs close to 90kgs.

He is good-looking – the 31-year-old’s partner is model and singer Paulina Gretzky, daughter of ‘The Great One’, ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.

He is wealthy – in 2016 alone the talented right-hander has already made over $3,000,000 on the PGA Tour.

He hits the golf ball big and straight – the former Coastal Carolina University student is third in driving distance this season and has pierced more than half of the fairways made available to him.

He is successful – the Florida resident has 11 professional victories to his name.

However, none of those have been at one of golf’s majors. Forget the fame and the money and the biceps and the booming tee-shots, glory at one of golf’s biggest four tournaments is surely what Johnson desires most.

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Having achieved top-five finishes at all of the majors at one time or another, Oakmont will present Johnson with yet another opportunity to get the proverbial monkey off his back.

The Pennsylvania track is long. It contains two par-fives that can play over 600 yards and six par-fours that can play well over 400 yards. Furthermore, the par-three eighth can measure up to 288 yards.

This will undoubtedly play into Johnson’s hands, who is one of the Tour’s most powerful players. To make him an even more appealing prospect this week, Johnson is currently in superb form. Of the 12 events he has entered on the PGA Tour this season, he has finished in the top-10 seven times.

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With his strong bottom-hand grip, Johnson has struck the ball crisply for an extended period of time now. In addition to his impressive distance off the box, which we have already alluded to, his iron-play has been majestic in 2016. Johnson has found 67.55 per cent of greens in regulation.

His short game has been dazzling. When he has missed greens, Johnson has successfully scrambled to save par 59 per cent of the time.

The American has been rolling the ball soundly too. With a putting average of 1.7 strokes per hole, he is ranked fourth on Tour in that department.

While Johnson dominates in most statistical categories listed by the PGA, he lacks in one that is not covered – winning clutch moments. And that is arguably the most important. Especially when trying to get it done on the biggest stage of them all.

Where the likes of Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy seem to relish operating in environments where everything is on the line, one cannot help but feel that Johnson detests them.

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At the US Open at Chambers Bay in 2015, Johnson looked certain to break his major duck.

Having crushed a five-iron to reach the 601-yard par-five 18th in two, Johnson had a 12-foot putt for eagle and the trophy. He blocked the putt to win and so left himself with a little meat on the bone for his come-backer to tie Spieth and force a Monday 18-hole playoff.

As he stood over that putt, you had the feeling. Everyone watching on TV had the feeling. Everyone sitting in those massive stands enveloping the 18th hole had the feeling. And, most of all, Johnson had the feeling. That ruler-length putt was never going in. And it didn’t.

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This is a song we have heard from DJ before.

This was the same Johnson who once missed out on a playoff in the PGA Championship because he forgot the rules on the 72nd hole and grounded his club in a hazard.

This is the same Johnson who held a three-shot lead entering the final round of the 2010 US Open and shot an 82.

Some golfers have it, some don’t. Johnson has most of it, but when it comes to winning the clutch moments, he has little, if anything at all.

And so for all the zing of Johnson’s impressive 2016 statistics and for the purity of his ball-striking that should be so closely aligned with success at the lengthy Oakmont course, we find it hard to see how Johnson will get it done this week.

Not because he lacks ability. But because he lacks the other stuff.

Article by Zac Elkin

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