Johnson not blown off course

Dustin Johnson hitting his tee shot on the 12th hole in round one of the AT&T Byron Nelson in Irving, Texas. He has no lingering effects from a back injury which prevented him from playing in last month's Masters.
Dustin Johnson hitting his tee shot on the 12th hole in round one of the AT&T Byron Nelson in Irving, Texas. He has no lingering effects from a back injury which prevented him from playing in last month's Masters.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

World No. 1 handles windy conditions with good short play to lie three behind

DALLAS (Texas) • World No. 1 golfer Dustin Johnson battled through tricky afternoon winds to post a 67 and tie for seventh after the opening round of the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, Texas, on Thursday.

"Just a really tough day. It was really difficult, the way it was blowing hard and it was gusty," he told Golf Channel, after moving within three shots of co-leaders James Hahn and Ricky Barnes in a large group tied at three-under.

"I felt like I hit a lot of good shots and ended up in really bad spots due to the wind conditions, which made it tough to judge the distance, made it tough putting, made it tough all around.

"It was very difficult to judge the wind. My short game was pretty good today. I made some nice saves to keep the round going."

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Reigning US Open champion Johnson is gunning for his fourth win in six outings. He is coming off a joint-second place at the Wells Fargo and tied for 12th at The Players Championship last week.

He added that there have been no lingering effects from his back injury suffered when he slipped and fell down a flight of stairs on the night before the US Masters last month, which caused him to withdraw from the tournament.

"Back is a 100 per cent good," the 32-year-old said.

"It has been the last two weeks."

Hahn rolled in a 20-footer to birdie the 18th hole for his share of the lead on 64, while fellow early starter Barnes rode to the top of the leaderboard on the strength of five birdies on the front side.

"It's playing tough out there," he said. "You know, once you start counting up your strokes in the middle of the round it's kind of when things go haywire.

"I had a great conversation with my caddie on almost every hole trying to leave ourselves the best opportunity for a birdie."

Barnes, the 2002 US Amateur champion, went on an up-and-down ride, as his scorecard featured eight birdies and two bogeys. "I played solid, kept the hole in front of me even though I didn't hit many fairways," he said.

Tied for second on 66 were Americans Matt Kuchar, Jason Kokrak and Cameron Tringale, along with Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas.

Australian world No. 4 Jason Day, who had the misfortune of rolling off the green at the 16th hole after hitting the stick with his approach shot, made a long birdie at No. 18, which gave him a 68 to tie for 14th with 11 others including two-time Major winner and local favourite Jordan Spieth.

Defending champion and Masters winner Sergio Garcia bogeyed the last hole to finish the round at TPC Las Colinas at the Four Seasons Resort with a three-over 73.

The Spaniard was tied for 93rd and will be pressed to make the cut.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

AT&T BYRON NELSON C'SHIP

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2017, with the headline 'Johnson not blown off course'. Print Edition | Subscribe