PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – One of the PGA Tour’s most consistent performers over the past decade, Dustin Johnson is in unfamiliar territory.
More than a year removed from his last victory.
And, at No. 9 in the world, in danger of dropping outside the top 10 for the first time in seven years.
Johnson on Wednesday blamed his relatively poor play on his driving, saying that he “must have tested 100 drivers” last year as he searched for the one that would optimize his power fade. During his best years he’s often ranked inside the top 5 in strokes gained: off the tee, but he slid to 21st last season. That inconsistency then trickled down into his iron play, and then his short game, and it added up to a year in which his only win came in a limited field at the Saudi International.
Of late, Johnson had been mentioned as one of the players targeted for the Saudi Golf League. He finally stated his intention to remain on the PGA Tour after missing the cut at the Genesis Invitational.
So he was asked Wednesday: Were the talks about joining a rival league distracting?
“Any time you have something that’s not what you’re doing it’s going to distract you,” he said ahead of The Players. “But for me, I don’t think it was too much of a distraction. Maybe it was. I don’t know. I can’t really answer that. I’m happy playing golf right where I’m at.”
Full-field scores from The Players Championship
Still, the timing of Johnson’s announcement was interesting – Riviera is typically one of Johnson’s favorite haunts, and he missed the cut comfortably. He hadn’t finished better than 25th in his previous Tour starts last fall.
“I don’t know if it had anything to do with it,” he said. “But I just wanted to have my complete focus on golf and playing on the PGA Tour. That was the main reason for the statement. … I think we made the best decision for me.”
With that speculation behind him, Johnson can focus on improving his record at TPC Sawgrass: In a dozen career appearances, he has just a single top-10, in 2019, the first year that the event moved back to its March date.
“I do like the golf course, and I feel like it sets up really well for me,” he said. “I feel really comfortable out here, and I’ve had a little more success the last few years since we moved it and hopefully can continue that.”