Dustin Johnson trying to recapture winning form at PGA Championship

Dustin Johnson PGA Championship press conference Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Dustin Johnson trying to recapture winning form at PGA Championship

PGA Tour

Dustin Johnson trying to recapture winning form at PGA Championship

CHARLOTTE – Dustin Johnson was just humoring himself on that Thursday afternoon at Augusta National. He knew the back wasn’t good enough and that he’d probably miss his 2:03 p.m. tee time.

He gave it a go on the driving range anyway, because when you’re ranked No. 1 in the world and have won three consecutive tournaments you’ll do anything to try and salvage such a fleeting zone.

You just keep chasing it.

“I had a lot of confidence,” Johnson said Tuesday in advance of this week’s PGA Championship at Quail Hollow. “I just won three big events in a row and I was playing as good of golf as I’ve ever played consistently, every day. So, it was as good as I’ve ever felt, confidence probably as high as it’s ever been. But things happen. Just when you feel like you get on top, something happens that knocks you down.”

It took a few months, but Johnson has his confidence back entering the PGA Championship. The question is whether or not he can climb all the way back to the top and add a major championship to a season which would otherwise feel incomplete. And, it’s interesting to note, Johnson never compares his game to where it was when he broke through and won his first career major at the 2016 U.S. Open. Just that magical pre-Masters place.

“I feel like it’s finally coming back into form,” said Johnson, who shot a final-round 66 to finish T-17 at last week’s Bridgestone Invitational. “I felt like I got some things worked out in the swing that were holding me back a little bit. Right now, I feel it’s close to when I was playing really well before Augusta. … The golf swing is there. I feel good. My body feels great. I’m looking for a really good week.” 

Johnson missed the cut at last year’s PGA Championship, done in by an opening-round 77 at Baltusrol. He missed the cut again in the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills and finished a disappointing T-59 in the British Open.  He wasn’t making many putts at the time and the irons weren’t very sharp, but Johnson insists he’s much closer now and poised to give Quail Hollow a legitimate run. 

“I feel like my game is coming around and it’s getting in really good shape,” Johnson said. “Perfect timing for the end of the year. We’ve got a lot of big tournaments, including this one. I’m excited about this week and the rest of the year.”

Having reached a level few ever will throughout that pre-Masters run, Johnson is no longer chasing tournament wins. He’s chasing his former self and a level of play he may or may not ever be able to replicate. The chase continues this week, about an hour away from his hometown of Columbia, S.C. in what he called “kind of a home game for me.”

The confidence level is there, the results are increasingly-promising and the stage is set at the season’s final major. Now Johnson just needs to catch himself.  

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