EDISON, N.J. - Dustin Johnson may have come up shy of a round of 59, but his bogey-free, 8-under-par 63 in the second round of the Barclays was good enough for his best round of 2011.
And yet, you could sense the disappointment in the tone of the athletic and talented Johnson in his post-round press conference.
"There's no way I can say I'm disappointed by any means," said a smiling Johnson, who sits one shot behind Matt Kuchar after the morning wave of golfers played what ended up being a moving-day round on Friday. "But as far as I could have done a little better, you know, with the short game [I could have].
"But you know, overall, I mean, a 63 is a 63. I'm going to be smiling."
It's Johnson's best round since a third-round 68 at the British Open, which put him in the final group with eventual champion Darren Clarke. Of course, Johnson remained in contention at Royal St. George's until his 2-iron shot on the par-5 14th went out-of-bounds, leading to a double-bogey 7.
But Plainfield CC on Friday paled in comparison to the tough conditions in Sandwich, England, or that of Atlanta Athletic Club (Johnson missed the cut at the PGA Championship), or Firestone CC (Johnson finished T-47, breaking 70 in only one round).
Wet conditions turned the Donald Ross design into a track in which "every hole was a birdie hole," Johnson said. And that's the way he played, smoking the front nine with a bogey-free 29.
"You can attack it, every flag," Johnson said. "So, it doesn't matter if you're coming in with a 3-iron or a wedge. You can get it close to the hole, because the ball just hits and stops."
Johnson sat at 7-under through 11 holes, and with two par-5s and the driveable par-4 18th awaiting him, a memorable score was not out of the question.
He had just rolled his longest putt of the day, an 18-footer for birdie at the par-3 11th, which curled in perfectly from about two cups outside left. Anxious, he walked to the 12th tee box and waved a towel as he waited for his playing partners to finish up their holes.
Ten minutes later, Johnson waited again on No. 12, this time in the middle of the fairway, 332 yards from the tee waiting for the green to clear. (He even had time to chuckle as the yawn of a spectator echoed on from the gallery.) His 3-iron approach ended up right of the green, forcing him to drop onto the green and end up with a disappointing par.
From there, the hopes of the 59 basically ended, but Johnson put himself one behind Kuchar entering Saturday's final round of the shortened first leg of the FedEx Cup.
But it was a constructive round for Johnson, who agreed when asked if it was his best of the year. He averaged only 1.5 putts per hole in the round (28) despite entering the Barclays ranked 154th in the PGA Tour's total putting category.
Johnson said he has focused on improving his putting stats, adding his struggles often come from getting uncomfortable standing over a putt.
"I don't ever think my stroke's bad," he said. "I struggle a lot of times with my setup."
With an equally hot putter to match his sizzling long game, he is set up to contend for his first win of the season.
-- Stephen Hennessey