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Dustin Johnson struggles with firmer Augusta National as defending Masters champ

AUGUSTA, Ga. – It has been solely 143 days since Dustin Johnson received the 2020 Masters, however Thursday on a windswept afternoon at Augusta National Golf Club, it appeared as if it was a lifetime in the past.

For the primary time in three years, Johnson failed to interrupt par throughout a spherical on the Masters, and his two-over-par 74 was riddled with errors. The Masters champion with the shortest reign in historical past walked off the 18th inexperienced of a really completely different course than the one he left again on November 15, 2020, when he was emphatically ending a record-breaking 20-under-par efficiency.

“The conditions are definitely different,” the 36-year-old Johnson stated afterward. “The course is a little bit firmer and faster. It’s playing definitely a lot tougher. When the greens are firm and fast here, the golf course plays difficult. Then you add the wind in today and it made it play really difficult, I thought.”

Yet regardless of his struggles, he nonetheless was tied for thirty sixth when he completed, definitely not out of it but, as solely 12 gamers have been beneath par when he was performed. A tougher golf course units up such a distinction for Johnson, who destroyed the document books again within the fall, setting the 72-hole scoring mark and turning into the primary participant ever to shoot two rounds of 65 in a single Masters.

Dustin Johnson hits his tee shot on the 4th hole during the first round of the Masters on April 8.

Dustin Johnson hits his tee shot on the 4th gap throughout the first spherical of the Masters on April 8.

He was a distinct golfer Thursday as a result of this was a distinct course. His November precision was gone; he overshot a number of greens, his ball bouncing exhausting earlier than trickling away into the tough.

“You’ve really got to be good with controlling your distance, which I thought was really difficult today with the wind,” Johnson stated. “It was kind of gusty too. I hit a lot of good shots that didn’t end up in good spots because of misjudging the wind a little bit.”

Trouble discovered him straight away. He bogeyed the primary gap when he couldn’t maintain the inexperienced. It occurred once more on the fifth gap, when an errant drive discovered a fairway bunker and he didn’t rise up and down, lacking a 9-foot putt for par.

Johnson saved par on the par-3 sixth gap after his tee shot bounced exhausting off the inexperienced. He missed the inexperienced once more on No. 11, however sank a 17-yard chip for birdie within the coronary heart of Amen Corner, eliciting a strong Thursday roar from the small however boisterous pandemic crowd.

“The irons aren’t as sharp as they were (in November),” he supplied, and that sounded proper.

Johnson birdied the par-5 thirteenth to achieve one-under on his day, then bogeyed 16 when he as soon as once more missed the inexperienced with an iron off the tee. He completed his uneven day with a sloppy double-bogey triggered by a poor drive on 18.

Earlier within the week, Johnson was requested if he knew the three gamers who’ve efficiently defended their Masters titles, successful back-to-back. He stated he did. For the document, it’s Jack Nicklaus in 1965 and 1966, Nick Faldo in 1989 and 1990, and Tiger Woods in 2001 and 2002.

Why did he assume it was so uncommon?

“It’s a tough tournament to win,” he stated. “You’re going to have to put four good rounds together, especially with the conditions. You’ve got to do everything well. And with it firm and fast, it’s just a really hard golf course because obviously any hole at any time can jump out and get you. So, it’s just very tough to win, I mean, to win once, and especially multiple times.”

Johnson stated his quest to grow to be the fourth man to win consecutive titles right here didn’t add any extra strain.

“If anything, I’m more relaxed,” he stated. “Today just played tough but I got it around pretty well. The last hole stings a little bit, but I’m swinging well and playing good and looking forward to the rest of the week.”

Spoken like a person who can nonetheless vividly bear in mind what it feels wish to win right here, because it was solely 5 months in the past.

This article initially appeared on USA TODAY: Dustin Johnson’s Masters first round is tougher with fast, firm course

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