If Jordan Spieth is able to chase his Open Championship victory with a WGC-Bridgestone title, he will be following in the footsteps of world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who captured the 2016 Bridgestone in his first start after winning the U.S. Open (the WGC-Bridgestone was moved up on the schedule to accommodate golf’s return to The Olympics).
Johnson may be the only golfer in the world ranked higher than Spieth, but the current state of his game is a big question mark.
Johnson was nothing short of dominant earlier in the season, at one point winning three consecutive tournaments, including two WGC events: the Mexico Championship and the Dell Technologies Match Play.
Since his freak off-course back injury on Masters eve, though, which caused him to withdraw from the year’s first major, nobody really knows where his game is.
Johnson, however, feels his game is getting close to where it was prior to the Masters mishap.
“Right now I feel like the game is very, very close to being how it was leading into the Masters and so it gives me a lot of confidence,” said Johnson at a press conference on Wednesday at Firestone.
Johnson finished runner up at the Wells Fargo Championship in his first event back from the injury, but was underwhelming in his next two starts, a T12 and a T13, and then missed his next two cuts after that, with latter of those coming in his U.S. Open defense.
In two events he has entered since the U.S. Open, the questions about his game were not answered. At the Open Championship, he dazzled the crowd with a nearly flawless third round 64, but followed that up with a field-worst 77 on Sunday to drop to T54.
Johnson admitted it’s been a struggle, “The past few months it’s just been taking a little bit of while to get the confidence back up, to know my swing’s going to produce the shots that I want it to.”
Johnson played in last week’s RBC Canadian Open, and was in contention after three rounds, but while a final round 5-under 67 looks good on paper, he failed to capitalize on his chances against a weak field, not doing much of anything on Sunday until it was too late to challenge the lead.
“Last week every day I was hitting my irons really well, which is something I’ve been struggling with a little bit. Something finally clicked and started hitting those really well,” Johnson said. “The driver swings feel good. I didn’t drive it the best but I just spent a little time on the range just now, I’ve got a couple new drivers and I went and played a few holes out on the course and hit some nice drives with them, so I feel like I’m swinging really good.”
That all being said, Johnson has consistently brought his ‘A’ game to WGC events, as his five victories are the second most all-time (behind Tiger’s 18 WGC wins, and no, that is not a typo), and if he wins in Akron, he would become the first-ever to win three in one season.
DJ would love to validate his season with a second career major championship, and it would be huge for his confidence if he could get back in the winner’s circle the week prior.