2017 U.S. Open: Statistically, Dustin Johnson is getting better

Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

2017 U.S. Open: Statistically, Dustin Johnson is getting better

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2017 U.S. Open: Statistically, Dustin Johnson is getting better

 

Dustin Johnson played some of the best golf of his life, and overcame a rules controversy, during the final round of last year’s U.S. Open at Oakmont to win his first major championship. He since has ascended to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking and won five tournaments.

The scary part for other golfers competing at Erin Hills, site of this week’s U.S. Open, is he’s getting even better.

Heading into last year’s U.S. Open, Johnson had a strokes gained: tee-to-green average of 1.787, which ranked third on the PGA Tour behind Adam Scott (2.087) and Justin Rose (1.834). This year Johnson leads the PGA Tour in that category with 2.025. That means over 18 holes, Johnson is more than two shots better than the average PGA Tour player based on his non-putting shots.

While Johnson’s power grabs most of the attention, the chart below shows his year-over-year rise in strokes gained: tee-to-green is the result of an improved short game.

Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson’s strokes gained: tee-to-green has improved thanks to a better short game. (David Dusek/Golfweek)

Last year Johnson had a Tour-average short game, but his strokes gained: around-the-green average has gone up from .008 to .239. It may not seem like much, and he’s not Phil Mickelson-esque. But Johnson leads the Tour in greens in regulation (72.53 percent), so he does not need to rely on a Houdini-like short game to save par as often as some other players. The .231 improvement per round represents about one shot over 72 holes, and in a U.S. Open one shot can make all the difference.

If Johnson drives the ball like he did at last year’s U.S. Open and can scramble to save par more a few more times thanks to an improved short game, he could be very tough to beat at Erin Hills.

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