Another surprisingly high score from Dustin Johnson is followed by a WD at the 3M Open
After back-to-back 80s last week at Memorial, Dustin Johnson shot a 78 during the first round of the 3M Open, then withdrew from the event citing a back issue.
What’s wrong with Dustin Johnson? It’s a question filled with contradiction but also relevance.
The immediate answer: An apparent back injury, which was the reason he gave for withdrawing from the 3M Open on Thursday afternoon following an opening-round eight-over 78.
To say things have taken a dramatic turn for Johnson would be an understatement. It was only last month—or more specifically three starts ago—that the former World No. 1 won the Travelers Championship with a 19-under score, giving him his first victory of the 2020 season and the 21st of his PGA Tour career.
But in his next start, last week’s Memorial Tournament, Johnson shot stunning back-to-back eight-over 80s at Muirfield Village, where he beat just one player in the field.
Things didn’t get any better this week. Johnson played his first nine holes at TPC Twin Cities outside Minneapolis in six-over 42, derailed in part by a water-ball bogey on the par-3 17th (he started on the 10th tee), followed by two more in the drink en route to a quadruple-bogey 9 on the next hole.
His assessment afterward?
“It was going OK until—well, I just hit a poor shot on 17,” Johnson said. “I hit it a little heavy in the water.
“But then hit a great drive on 18 and we only had like 199 [yards] to cover from where I was, 208 flag, it was a perfect 6-iron. Hit it right at it and never once did I think it was going to go in the water. That never crossed my mind when it was in the air. Just went in the water and I hit two more shots in the water, then I hit a good one, made a tap-in for a 9.”
Johnson made no reference to his back in the post-round interview before pulling out of the tournament 30 minutes later.
What it means for him moving forward remains to be seen. Johnson has twice won at TPC Southwind, site of next week’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, and the 2019-’20 season’s first and only major, the PGA Championship, is the following week. Though it’s unlikely he will miss any time.
“He absolutely plans to play,” Johnson’s agent, David Winkle, told Golf Digest in a text message. “He was experiencing some tightness in his back, which requires rest and treatment, both of which he’ll get the next few days."
Dustin Johnson's Thursday scorecard included three bogeys, a double and a quad.
The trio of high scores is so odd because of they came so out of the blue. The last time Johnson had three straight rounds over par on tour was the Tour Championship last September, where he failed to break par in any of the four rounds at East Lake and finished last in the field of 30 (though his highest score that week was a mere 75). The longest stretch of over par rounds for Johnson during his tour career came in 2017, when he had six straight rounds during the summer, though four of those came in majors (U.S. Open, British Open).
“I feel like I'm driving it well, but the iron play, first six or seven holes hit it close and then the rest of the day kind of struggled a little bit with iron play,” Johnson said. "Kind of the same last week, I just struggled with my iron play and [that] makes it difficult.”