Golf: No. 1 Dustin Johnson confident in form ahead of Masters challenge

Johnson plays a shot during a practice round prior to the Masters. PHOTO: AFP

AUGUSTA, UNITED STATES (AFP) - Top-ranked Dustin Johnson, runner-up in three of golf's past six major events, enters the 84th Masters with confidence thanks to improved putting and greater consistency in his shotmaking.

The 36-year-old American, known best for his long-driving skills and mellow demeanor, captured the Tour Championship in September and took PGA Player of the Year honors after winning three titles following the Covid-19 break that ended in June.

He finished second in August's PGA Championship, shared sixth at the US Open in September at Winged Foot and was a runner-up last week in Houston, building confidence for a run at his second major title and first green jacket.

"Coming off a great year and a good finish last week. Got a lot of confidence in the game," Johnson said on Tuesday (Nov 10).

"I feel like I'm playing really well. It's probably the best I've played in my career, but it's more consistent - my shot shape, my flight and controlling my distance."

Johnson has worked on his short game and putting, two crucial aspects for any winner over the undulating greens of Augusta National.

"I've put in a lot of work on being able to control my distance with wedges, so it's very consistent right now," Johnson said.

"I'm very pleased with where the game is at."

Johnson compares it to 2017, when he was a runaway Masters favorite but slipped and fell on stairs in a rented house at Augusta and hurt his back, forcing him to withdraw.

"It's really similar," Johnson said of his form then and now. "I was playing great coming into the Masters. Coming off three starts in a row I won. The game was in really good form."

Johnson has 23 tour triumphs but only one win among 19 top-10 major finishes, that coming at the 2016 US Open. He doesn't feel rushed by Father Time to add to his major trophy total.

"I would love to win a lot more majors. I'd like to get my second one then add on to that. I just need to keep putting myself into situations," Johnson said.

"I've still got a lot more years ahead of me, so I'm not really too stressed about it."

More comfort at Masters

Just like most Masters veterans, he is learning more every year about Augusta National, the course he dreamed about winning on as a youth growing up an hour's drive away.

"I keep getting better and keep getting more comfortable the more times I play it," the 2019 Masters runner-up said.

Johnson says that despite his calm appearance, his emotions churn in the back-nine Sunday major battles.

"I definitely get excited. I can feel it coming down the stretch because I want to win. It means a lot to me," he said.

"I don't know how to explain it other than I'm just really focused on what I'm doing and not really focused on the outcome.

"I've been in this situation enough times on Sundays in majors where I can feed off those experiences and know what to expect.

"As long as the game stays in good form, I'm hopefully going to be around here on Sunday and have a chance to win."

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