Even at eight back, Dustin Johnson has plan

Dustin Johnson during Friday's second round of the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.

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U.S. Open

Pinehurst (N.C.) Resort (No. 2)

6/12/2014 - 6/15/2014

Pos Name Thru Today Overall
1 Martin Kaymer $1,620,000 600 -9
2 Erik Compton $789,330 270 -1
2 Rickie Fowler $789,330 270 -1
4 Henrik Stenson $326,310 115 +1
4 Jason Day $326,310 115 +1
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PINEHURST, N.C. – The last time Dustin Johnson tangled with Martin Kaymer at the top of the leaderboard in a major championship, Johnson ended up with a two-stroke penalty and a $270,833 paycheck. In just one hole, the 18th at Whistling Straits, Johnson slipped from first to fifth in the 2010 PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, Kaymer won that major and took home $1,350,000.

What a difference a two-shot penalty can make, Kaymer earning $1,079,167 more than Johnson on that controversial day. Without the penalty for grounding his club in a bunker, Johnson would have joined Kaymer and Bubba Watson in a playoff.

That was nearly four years ago. Now Johnson and Kaymer are battling at the 2014 U.S. Open, although Kaymer is threatening to run away from the field. When Johnson finished his second round early Friday afternoon, he was 2 under par and tied for second. Kaymer, however, was 10 under par and waving goodbye to all contenders.

"My approach won't change at all," insisted Johnson, sounding like a man trying to convince himself of something. "Just keep doing what I'm doing. I've got a good game plan for this golf course and I'm going to stick to it, no matter what. I'll just keep trying to shoot under par around here."

Spoken like a man seemingly content with a runner-up finish.

Statistics tell us Johnson might not be able to overcome his red-hot rival anyway. The tale of the tape definitely favors Kaymer.

In 36 holes, Kaymer has hit 26 greens in regulation. Johnson has hit 23.

Kaymer is 25 for 28 in fairways hit, while Johnson is 14 for 28.

Kaymer has 54 putts in 36 holes (25 and 29, respectively). Johnson has 57 putts (29 and 28). Kaymer does not have a single three-putt green, and Johnson has one.

"Tomorrow you need to come out and play solid again, and, depending on how the course is set up, you shoot even par or a couple under," said Johnson, sticking to his conservative strategy. "I think that will still give you a chance to win on Sunday."

Whatever happened to the warrior spirit? Emotional control is one thing, but surrendering is quite another.

"No matter what anybody says, I'm playing my game," concluded Johnson, sounding more resolute than at any other time in his career. "Keep the ball in play, hit solid shots. It may sound boring, but that's the way I intend to do it."

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