By Frank Pingue
AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Dustin Johnson is once again in fine form heading into next week's U.S. Masters and is not leaving anything to chance in his latest quest for the Green Jacket that so many expected him to slip into last year.
Johnson was the planet's hottest golfer and the favorite to triumph at Augusta National in 2017 but never got to tee off after a freak tumble down the stairs at his rental home injured his back on the eve of the tournament.
This time around the long-hitting American will have no such worries -- the world number one is renting a one-story Augusta-area house for the year's first major.
"It's not the same one, no," Johnson said at February's Genesis Open when asked if he was renting the same property. "It's just got bad juju, so I'm not going there."
Last year's injury kept Johnson out of competition for a month but in his first event back, at the Wells Fargo Championship, he came second followed by a share of 12th at The Players and a T13 at the Byron Nelson.
He then missed the cut in his next two starts, the Memorial and U.S. Open, and could only muster a share of 54th place at the British Open before saying in July that he was still feeling the effects of his back injury.
He has since returned to full fitness and after watching last year's Masters from his couch, Johnson will surely be chomping at the bit for a chance to secure a second major title after his U.S. Open triumph in 2016.
While not quite as hot as last year when he arrived at the Masters on the back of victories in three consecutive starts against strong fields, the 33-year-old has plenty of reasons to feel upbeat.
Johnson has already won once during the PGA Tour's 2017-18 wraparound season along with two second-place finishes.
Prior to crashing out of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play event in Austin, Johnson's worst finish in five starts this season had been a tie for 16th at the Genesis Open.
Next up is Augusta National, where the length that Johnson enjoys off the tee will be accentuated.
"I'm definitely looking forward to it this year," Johnson, speaking to the Augusta Chronicle, said of the Masters. "You know, I was very disappointed I didn’t get to play last year, but things happen.
"So you've just got to roll with it. But yeah, it’s a place where I always love going to play. I feel like I really like the golf course."
(Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Toby Davis)