The Associated Press
PALM HARBOR, Fla.–Dustin Johnson is peaking. The Masters is nearing. And he was talking yesterday about an injury from the stairs.
At least this time it was his brother.
“Those stairs, man,” Johnson said with a smile. “They’ll get you.”
Johnson has been trying for two years to get back to the best golf he ever played, when he won three-straight tournaments against the strongest fields to reach No. 1 and become a heavy favourite at the Masters.
Then he slipped down the stairs at his rental home in Augusta, Ga., withdrew, and hasn’t returned to that level of golf.
He feels closer than ever as he plays the Valspar Championship for the first time in nine years.
Johnson won the World Golf Championship in Mexico by five shots, and he was in position to contend at The Players Championship until the putter deserted him and he finished three shots behind.
“I feel like the swing is starting to feel a lot better. The shot patterns are starting to get more consistent,” Johnson noted.
“So now, it’s the closest I’ve been to that.”
He’ll have a caddie with one working arm.
Austin Johnson returned home from The Players Championship carrying luggage up the stairs in wet rain pants when he tripped and braced the fall with his left arm.
He’ll have a cast on his left arm for the week, which would be a bigger problem if he had to swing a club.
Stairs 2, Johnsons 0.
Johnson wasn’t planning to be at Innisbrook except for the PGA Tour’s policy of players competing in an event they have not played in four years.
Johnson thought he was excused from that when he won his 20th career PGA Tour title in Mexico, until learning that night he still had to put in 15 years (he’s in his 12th season).
The Valspar Championship was an easy choice.
The Copperhead Course is a strong layout that doesn’t rely heavily on water hazards like most Florida courses. It has subtle elevation and tree-lined fairways, and the winning score has been no better than 10-under 274 in five of the last six years.
It’s why Jon Rahm is at Innisbrook for the first time.
“Every part of your game is going to be tested, and every part of the game needs to be on to be able to win,” Rahm stressed.