MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It’s not often a player will make a drastic change in the middle of a round. Dustin Johnson, of course, is not most players.
In Thursday’s opening round of the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, Johnson was bumbling along on TPC Southwind’s back nine (his opening nine), playing the stretch in three over par with three bogeys, a double and two birdies.
So he decided that seemed as good a time as any to go from a conventional putting grip to a cross-handed one (left-hand low).
“It couldn't get any worse, so I figured I had to try something,” Johnson said. “It was, yeah, not very good, and so going to the back, I don't know, I didn't decide to do it until I was literally about to hit the putt on [the first], which was my 10th hole. But sometimes you just need a little bit of change.”
Hey, whatever works.
The decision paid off with the two-time winner at TPC Southwind making birdies on each of his first three holes on the front nine. It also helped that all three came from inside 10 feet.
Two holes later, he made another, this time draining a 15-footer.
Johnson’s lone hiccup over his final nine holes came on the seventh after he failed to get up and down from from right of the green and made bogey. He bounced back with one last birdie after stuffing his approach to six feet on his final hole of the day, the par-4 ninth. All told, he finished the day shooting a one-under 69, seven strokes back of Day 1 leader Jon Rahm.
If this does sound familiar—with respect to Johnson, at least—it should. He did the same thing in the middle of the 2018 Tour Championship and later contemplated doing so at the Ryder Cup.
“Even when I've just done it on the practice green messing around, I've always stroked it really well,” Johnson said. “These greens are really fast, so it's actually a good time for me to do it, because when I've got to hit it, it's not as easy. We'll probably see it again tomorrow.”