SOUTHAMPTON, NEW YORK | By early afternoon Friday, after the morning’s unexpected chilly rain had departed and the sun had flashed across Shinnecock Hills, a single question percolated:
Will anyone beat Dustin Johnson in this U.S. Open?
That’s what the weekend is for but the target seems set with Johnson playing the way he is.
“He’s playing D.J. golf,” Justin Thomas said after watching it up close for two days.
What does that mean?
“It’s just really good and really consistent,” Thomas said. “He drives the ball really well. His distance control and his irons, his flights are great. And he’s a very underrated bunker player. He had some great up-and-downs out of the bunkers today and he’s putting the ball well.
“So (he) pretty much has it all covered, I think.”
That’s from the player Johnson supplanted atop the world ranking with his victory at the FedEx St. Jude Classic last Sunday.
Johnson, who added a Friday 67 to his opening 69 to stand at 4-under par through 36 holes, has matured into a model U.S. Open player, with a trophy from the 2016 championship at Oakmont as proof. His uncommon power remains an advantage even at Shinnecock Hills, where strength is not necessarily the first priority. With his controlled fade off the tee and being perhaps the game’s best wedge player from the fairway, Johnson minimizes his risk of making major mistakes. That’s job one in the U.S. Open.
"The fans out there are great. I love the fans up here. They always give me a lot of support, and so it was a lot of fun the last two days." –@DJohnsonPGA is gearing up for an exciting weekend at Shinnecock. #USOpen pic.twitter.com/aV30NBC8Ak
— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) June 15, 2018
“I feel like if I can get a look at par and not make any doubles, I’m going to make a couple birdies,” Johnson said. “But limit the mistakes, especially the big numbers.
“I know I’m playing well so as long as I can do that then I’m going to shoot a pretty good score.”
With a short game that polishes the rough edges and a reliable putting stroke, Johnson has no major weakness. He seems built for Shinnecock Hills and the U.S. Open.
“There’s still a lot of golf left no matter what position I’m in,” Johnson said. “Going into tomorrow, I’m going to stick to my game plan, stick to playing the holes how I have the first couple of days and see what happens.”