Golf: Putting woes as Johnson stumbles at US Open

Dustin Johnson and caddie Austin Johnson line up a putt on the 18th green during the first round.
Dustin Johnson and caddie Austin Johnson line up a putt on the 18th green during the first round.PHOTO: AFP

ERIN, United States (AFP) – World number one Dustin Johnson is refusing to hit the panic button after his bid to become the first back-to-back winner of the US Open in nearly three decades took a pounding with a wayward first round here Thursday (June 15).

On a day where perfect conditions triggered a feast of low-scoring, Johnson finished a disappointing round at Erin Hills with a three-over-par 75, 10 adrift of early leader Rickie Fowler.

Johnson had arrived in Wisconsin as the bookmaker’s favourite, with his powerful long game tipped to be ideally suited to what was set up as the longest US Open course in history.

But the 32-year-old was left reflecting on what might have been after a round which saw him struggle to generate any momentum with his putter.

“I just didn’t putt very well. I missed a lot of really good opportunities. That was the big key for me. If I don’t three-putt, I shoot even,” Johnson said afterwards.

“But if I just make one or two of the good looks I have, it’s a couple under. I didn’t hit it great, but I hit it good enough to shoot a good score.”

After teeing off on the 10th and opening with four pars, the problems for Johnson began on the par-five 14th when he three-putted for a double-bogey seven.

A further bogey followed on the par-four 15th.

A birdie followed on the 16th but Johnson was soon back in trouble on the 17th, twice finding the rough for this third bogey of the day.

A missed birdie putt on the 18th was emblematic of a miserable front nine.

Johnson steadied the ship with nine straight pars on his homeward stretch, and admitted to frustration that his score had not reflected his play.

“I’m a little frustrated that I shot three over,” he said.

“But I didn’t play that bad. I just didn’t putt very good. It wasn’t that I was hitting bad putts, my speed was a little off.

“I’d either miss it – hit it just high and lip it out or they went across the front edge of the hole.

“I’m playing good. I hit enough fairways today to shoot a good score. But I’ve definitely got to roll it better. I’m swinging good, everything feels good, I just need to make more putts here.”