By Larry Fine
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) – Dustin Johnson reckons he may be poised to give a winning performance in his “home game” this week and shed four months of frustration at the PGA Championship at North Carolina’s Quail Hollow starting on Thursday.
World number one Johnson, who grew up an hour away in South Carolina, said many factors were coming together for him this week at the year’s last golf major and that he rated his form at 8.5 on a scale of 10.
“I’ve been working hard on the game. I feel like it’s finally coming back into form,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “Last week I felt like I got some things worked out in the swing that were just holding me back a little bit.
“Right now, I feel it’s close to when I was playing really well before Augusta.”
Johnson firmly ruled the world of golf after successive wins at the Genesis Open at Riviera, the WGC-Mexico and WGC-Match Play in a brilliant February-to-March stretch.
A huge favorite going into April’s U.S. Masters, the big-hitting American slipped on some stairs where he was staying in Augusta and hurt his back, forcing him to withdraw and return to the drawing board after time off recovering.
“Obviously it’s really frustrating. But things happen. You’ve just got to deal with them, and I feel like the golf game’s in really good shape right now,” he said. “I feel like I’m driving it really well again.”Things happen, and so now I’ve just got to fight and practice and work hard to get back to where I was.”
Johnson missed cuts at The Memorial and U.S. Open and tied for 54th at the British Open. But a tie for eighth at the Canadian Open and a share of 17th at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational have helped restore confidence.
Johnson, the 2016 U.S. Open champion, said this might be the time and place to get back to the winner’s circle.
“I grew up about an hour down the road. My family will be up watching, supporting me. I’ve got a lot of fans in this area and then obviously Columbia (S.C.) is not that long of a drive,” said Johnson. “It’s kind of a home game for me, so it’s nice.”
Johnson has also had many frustrating disappointments at majors, including the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits where he was penalized for grounding his club in what was ruled a bunker on the 72nd hole that kept him from joining a playoff.
“No, I don’t think it owes me one,” he said about the 2010 PGA title that eluded him. “It was my fault. I grounded a club in what they still say is a bunker,” he said to laughter from reporters.
“But obviously, it’s a major championship. It’s a tournament that I would definitely like to win, and I feel like there is no better week than this one.”
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)