Presidents Cup: Johnson, Koepka roll past Scott, Vegas in U.S. rout

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Presidents Cup: Johnson, Koepka roll past Scott, Vegas in U.S. rout

PGA Tour

Presidents Cup: Johnson, Koepka roll past Scott, Vegas in U.S. rout

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka have started most mornings this week in a Manhattan spin class before crossing New York Harbor to Liberty National Golf Club. It might be the only time the laid-back duo break a sweat during this Presidents Cup.

They didn’t in their Friday four-ball match against Adam Scott and Jhonattan Vegas as the close friends cruised to a 3 and 2 win. 

The win was Johnson’s first in the best-ball format. On Day 1 he had maintained his unbeaten record in foursomes (against the same team of Scott/Vegas), but the World No. 1 was 0-3 in the Presidents Cup when playing his own ball. That included a pair of losses with Tiger Woods in 2011 and another with Jordan Spieth two years ago in South Korea. 

On paper, Johnson and Koepka are a daunting combination, two of the longest hitters and most unflappable personalities in the game. 

“One thing they have as a team is the intimidation factor, especially in best ball,” says Claude Harmon II, who coaches both men. “You know they’re going to hammer it. The ‘shock and awe’ factor.“ 

According to Harmon, the pair have worked out every morning this week, followed by a visit to Soul Cycle. 

“Not today,” Johnson said, tapping his coach on the shoulder on the range as he passed. “Me and Brooks worked out but no spin class.”

“Their games are similar,” Harmon continued. “The big thing in team competition is that their personalities don’t cancel out any momentum, because they’re both so flatlined and don’t get excited.” 

There wasn’t much cause for excitement early as Vegas gave the Internationals an early lead with an 18-footer for birdie on the first. The Venezuelan’s putter—usually more of a liability than a weapon—was crucial. He made another birdie on No. 5 and drained a 34-footer from off the green on 12, a birdie that reduced the International deficit to 1-down after the Americans had grabbed the lead. 

It was the last highlight the Internationals enjoyed. On 15 Johnson holed from 20 feet for birdie, punctuating it with a rare show of fist-pumping emotion. One hole later he stuffed his tee shot to 5 feet and made the birdie to end the match.

Turning point

The par 3s at 7 and 10 turned the tide in this match. Koepka made a tricky par putt from 13 feet on the long seventh to get his team back to all square then birdied the 10th to grab the lead for the first time.

Who’s hot?

Johnson heads into the weekend 2-0 and has barely even been tested. His form looks ready for an examination, should any International Team member offer it. He birdied three of his last five holes to close out the Internationals and claim his first ever four-ball win in the Presidents Cup.

Top shot

After his partner found the water right on 12, Johnson barely cleared the hazard himself. But his aggressive line left him just 32 yards from the green, more than 90 yards closer than his only dry opponent, Scott. He took advantage with a pitch to 6 feet and an easy birdie.

Etc.

Johnson broke his 0-for-3 streak in Presidents Cup four-ball play. It’s a format he struggles in, since his record is only slightly better in Ryder Cup play at 2-4 record. … On the putting green before the match, Scott was greeted by a friend who noticed the stars on Scott’s bag indicating his Presidents Cup appearances. “Eight of these? You’re getting old mate.” … Scott entered the day tied with Ernie Els for a record no one wants: most matches lost in Presidents Cup history. Both had lost 18. Scott now has the record to himself.

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