Dustin Johnson on distance debate: "I definitely don't hit it too far"

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FL - MAY 10: Dustin Johnson of the United States plays his shot from the 15th tee during the first round of THE PLAYERS Championship on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on May 10, 2018 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images) Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Dustin Johnson on distance debate: "I definitely don't hit it too far"

PGA Tour

Dustin Johnson on distance debate: "I definitely don't hit it too far"

 

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Like most courses these days, Shinnecock seems to favor long hitters like Dustin Johnson for this week’s U.S. Open.

Jack Nicklaus and many others argue today’s long hitter is too long. And, one year after Brooks Koepka mashed it off the tee all week and won the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, potentially dialing things back with a reduced-flight ball remains the most heated argument in golf.

Johnson isn’t exactly the most outspoken dude on Tour. But as a top 10 distance guy and the No. 1-ranked player in the world, his voice is an important one in the great golf ball debate.

“I would tell them to go out and watch a golf tournament,” Johnson said of the dial-it-back crowd. “I don’t think I hit it too far. Yeah, there’s occasions where you get downwind, downhill on firm ground and the ball goes a long way. Walk around here. When you’ve got a ball straight into the wind, the golf ball ain’t going that far. I definitely don’t hit it too far and the game is not easy, that’s for sure. I don’t know what to say to them except maybe go watch some golf shots.”

Johnson arrived at the U.S. Open fresh off a six-shot win in Memphis and played an early morning practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson Dechambeau, making the turn alone while Woods and DeChambeau called it quits after nine.

This is Johnson’s first time on property and he’s still getting used to a few things. Like, for example, how one gets to the ninth tee from the eighth green.

As for the actual golf course?

“I think it’s a fantastic venue,” Johnson said. “It’s all about the second shot. You’ve really got to hit good quality second shots into these greens. Some of the greens are big, but the surface area where you want to hit your ball is small. So you’ve got to hit good golf shots. If you miss it in the wrong spot, I mean, you have a very, very tough time getting it up and down.”

Johnson should have an easier time than most hitting into those small targets because he’ll usually have a mid or short iron in his hands. Such is the reward for hitting it long and straight off the tee, and there will be opportunities to do so throughout the week. The fairways at Shinnecock aren’t as wide as Erin Hills’ were, but they’re pretty generous by most accounts.

That’s not the only reason to like Johnson’s chances this week. Putting is always key at these things, and he’s ranked 20th in strokes gained putting on the season.

It takes focus and mental toughness to overcome a bad break or poor swing at a U.S. Open and regroup for the next shot. Come to think of it, Johnson’s mindset and attitude might be bigger assets than his driver.

“I try not to ever worry about what I’ve just done,” Johnson said. “Still got to play, usually a lot more holes. So go find your ball and hit it again.”

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