The Open 2015: Dustin Johnson is shining brightly as Jordan Spieth lurks menacingly
There is a perception in golf that Dustin Johnson is not the brightest button in the box. One rather dismissive columnist advanced the view that Johnson is so dense light bends around him.
Nice line, yet at some point, his talent being what it is, you have to think Johnson will rise to his full height and proclaim: "I am the light."
That is how it looked yesterday as he bent the ball around St Andrews as if playing with a wand. Out in 31, back in 34 for an effortless 65 to lead the Open Championship on seven-under par. Thank you very much. Too good, even, for golf's history chaser, Jordan Spieth .
Johnson is one clear of a group that includes Jason Day, Scotland's Paul Lawrie, Zach Johnson and England's Danny Willett and two ahead of playing partner Spieth. Louis Oosthuizen, who won here five years ago, and fellow South African and 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, are also well placed in the five-under cluster.
Johnson held this station at the US Open a month ago, of course. He led by two with nine to play and had a 20-footer for eagle to win at the last and keep Spieth out of history's magic circle. And we know how that ended. He has reached an accommodation with himself over his failure to close that deal, claiming the ball behaved as the greens wanted them to not as he commanded.
While that might sound like an abnegation of responsibility there was none of that here. The greens were as true as a boy scout under oath, and he had the ball on a string.
The surprise was it took him a hole to get going, his first strike against par coming at the second. Another followed immediately and when the first eagle of the week landed at the fifth to take him to four-under par, the words "here we go" echoed around the Old Course. Johnson was in golf's dreamboat group with the mighty Spieth, who matched him almost stroke for stroke going out, both reaching the turn on five-under par. The back nine, heading home into a stiffening breeze, presented the tougher examination, checking the relentless march of Spieth, who required a 20-footer for birdie at the last to sign for a 67.
There was not a blemish on Johnson's card. The par saves at the 16th from 10 feet and the 17th from 15 feet will have felt like birdies. They were the only two times he was out of position off the tee. If he can maintain that level of execution over the coming days, it is hard to see how even Spieth might land a blow, as he acknowledged.
On the other hand, if Johnson's travails at Chambers Bay were an expression of a weakness he cannot bring himself to acknowledge, and that was the fourth time he has contended at a major and not prevailed, then the field can relax. For now Johnson maintains his defiance. "There's really nothing to be upset about [the US Open]. I played well. I did everything I was supposed to do," Johnson said.
If there is one player out here who is able to resist the Johnson artillery it is the 21-year-old Texan chasing the improbable quad. That that is how Spieth sees it, too, as you might, having won the Masters and the US Masters.
While the forecasters can't make up their minds about the potency of it, they are agreed that the weather will be more of a factor today. It was hardly tropical in the afternoon yesterday when gloves and balaclavas were de rigueur. The players can't win, beaten up by the weather should things turn nasty or a storm called Johnson when it's fair.