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US PGA 2015: Dustin Johnson off to promising start

By Liam Kelly

Published 14/08/2015

SHEBOYGAN, WI - AUGUST 13: Dustin Johnson of the United States waves to the crowd on the ninth green during the first round of the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits on August 13, 2015 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
SHEBOYGAN, WI - AUGUST 13: Dustin Johnson of the United States waves to the crowd on the ninth green during the first round of the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits on August 13, 2015 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Thomas Bjorn

Dustin Johnson has the cool, laconic look of Clint Eastwood and walks like a gunfighter.

When he has his driver dialled in, Johnson sends golf balls soaring through the air like a guided missile and it's always a thrill for the galleries.

Even nice guy Jordan Spieth confesses to a tinge of envy when he watches the likes of Johnson and Rory McIlroy power their way around golf courses.

But when it comes to a 'make my day' moment in Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry mode, Johnson has a habit of allowing himself to be punked - or should it be funked - out of finishing the job.

Whistling Straits offers one more chance of redemption to a man who famously has found a way, either through fate or misfortune, to sabotage four potential Major championship victories.

Sand error at Whistling Straits in the US PGA championship in 2010; letting a three-shot lead slip in the final round of the US Open that year; a brutal three-putt from 12 feet at Chambers Bay in June at the US Open; and dropping out of contention from a commanding position in the Open Championship at St Andrews last month.

In fairness, some of his golf has been majestic and he was in that mode for much of his first round on the formidable Straits Course at Whistling Straits.

This Pete Dye-designed layout, on a site which once was a US Army firing range from 1949-'59, was transformed under the ownership of Herb Kohler into a visually spectacular golfing experience.

Kohler wanted a links-style course that was modelled on the best of Irish and Scottish courses.

Dye delivered it, albeit the fairways here are quite lush and have more of a parkland feel, and Lake Michigan supplies the water boundary instead of the Atlantic or the Irish Sea.

But easy? No, despite a host of early birdies by top players, with Johnson as the spearhead.

After 14 holes he was six-under par, including an eagle three on the 576-yard, par-5 16th.

"I was swinging well and I decided to use driver as much as possible. The ball went pretty well where I was aiming," said Johnson.

After opening rounds of 70, 65 and 65 in this year's Majors, he was asked if he could put a finger on the reason for making good early impressions

"I don't know. I think I'm just playing a little better this year.

"I don't know. Your guess is as good as mine." End of analysis.

The only blemish on his card came on the par-3 12th where he was bunkered off the tee and did not get up and down, but, hey, no problem. Johnson just moved on the 13th and birdied that, so he was back in the lead.

Over the finishing holes, Johnson held par to round off his day's work with a 66 and the early clubhouse lead.

Tiger Woods, who has scored 73, 80, 76 respectively in the first round of the Masters, US Open and British Open this year, filed a three-over 75.

"I hit it great today but I made actually nothing. It's probably one of the worst putting rounds I've had in a very long time. That's about it," Woods said.

Matt Kuchar was among a bunch of players, including Jason Day and JB Holmes, who all shot four-under-par 68, but there was a long way to go.

Belfast Telegraph

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