ERIN, US: Dustin Johnson will aim to exploit his big-hitting prowess on the longest course in major championship history when he tees off at the US Open on Thursday (Friday in Manila), bidding to become the first back-to-back champion in 28 years.
The world number one won his first major in last year’s US Open at Oakmont, after several near-misses, and is the bookmakers’ favorite at the picturesque Erin Hills course in rural Wisconsin.
Hosting a major for the first time, the intimidating 7,741 yard, par-72 layout is not for the faint-hearted, promising a physical and mental challenge for the very best.
Many holes feature blind or semi-blind tee-shots, while the course’s mid-section runs on an outward-inward path that will ensure players face variable winds.
Factor in fairways bordered by deep fescue grass that some have already described as unplayable, and it appears likely that the tournament will live up to its billing as the toughest test in golf.
Johnson, however, who missed the Masters in April after a freak accident where he slipped on steps and hurt his back on the eve of the tournament, was adamant the length of Erin Hills would suit his game.
“It’s just a very, very difficult tournament to win,” the 32-year-old said, noting the US Open challenge and the reputation of this year’s venue.
“I like really tough golf courses. I tend to focus more and play better. I like knowing par is a good score for some reason. I don’t know why. I play better when I’m playing for pars.”
If he defends his title, Johnson will be the first man to win back-to-back US Opens since Curtis Strange in 1988 and 1989.
Strange, now working as a television analyst, backed Johnson to complete the double. “We’re at a bomber’s paradise, and the best player in the world is the bomber,” Strange said.
“Wherever DJ plays, he’s the longest out there. I have a feeling he’ll be amped this week.”