By Andrew Both
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (Reuters) – Long-hitting American Dustin Johnson is mentally fresh after a break from action and eager to get going at this week’s PGA Championship where a big and wet course will put a premium on driving distance.
World number one Johnson, who will not have played competitively for over three weeks by the time he tees off in Thursday’s opening round, played 18 holes on Tuesday at Bethpage Black and said the layout for the year’s second major suits his game.
“For me, it’s all about driving. The fairways are generous in some spots. Some holes are narrow. But you’ve got to hit the fairways here,” Johnson told reporters at his pre-tournament news conference.
“The rough is pretty penal. It’s not super deep, but it’s just really thick, and you’ve just got to drive it straight. I like the golf course. It sets up well for me. I feel like I can drive it good around here.”
The PGA Championship, which has been moved up from its traditional August date, used to cap a busy four-week stretch of tournaments for Johnson but the schedule change has given him an extended break.
Johnson would normally arrive at the PGA Championship after competing in consecutive weeks at the British Open, Canadian Open and World Golf Championship Invitational, a taxing stretch that usually left his game sharp.
“It’s definitely different for me, but obviously mentally I’m coming in here very fresh and focused and ready to go,” said Johnson.
“Is the game probably as sharp as it is after four weeks of big tournaments? Probably not. But I feel like I’m swinging really well. I’ve felt like I’ve been swinging well all year.”
Johnson’s game has been mostly consistent in recent years but the 2016 U.S. Open champion has missed a number of chances to add to his lone career major title.
Yet Johnson, who finished in a share of second place at last month’s Masters followed by a tie for 28th at Hilton Head Island the following week in his last start, is not losing sleep over any missed opportunities.
“I mean, disappointed I wouldn’t go with, but a little frustrated sometimes just because I’ve had quite a few chances and I’ve felt like a few of them I really didn’t do anything,” said Johnson.
“But that’s just how it is. It’s hard to win majors. If it was easy, a lot of guys would have a lot more than they do.
“But I feel good coming into this week, and I feel like this is a golf course where I’ve had success on, and I feel like I can play it well, especially in these conditions,” added Johnson, whose best showing in three PGA Tour appearances at Bethpage Black came in 2012 at The Barclays, when he finished in a share of third.
(Writing by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis)