Dustin Johnson says he's enjoying hitting a lot of shots that he never gets to try in the United States. (Getty Images)
Less scrutiny for Johnson heading into this major Sunday
After his big meltdown at Pebble Beach a month ago, Dustin Johnson is back on the 54-hole leaderboard at the British Open. He'll be looking for a little final-round redemption on Sunday.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- He won't enter the final round of this major championship under the same kind of scrutiny he did at Pebble Beach last month in the U.S. Open.
That may not be a bad thing, either. And the good news is that Dustin Johnson has shaken off that major disappointment and worked his way back among the leaders at the 139th British Open.
The big-hitting Johnson, who led by three at the end of 54 holes of the U.S. Open only to see it evaporate in his first three holes on Sunday, finds himself 6 under at the same juncture on the Old Course.
Johnson fired a 69 on Saturday, his second such score of a difficult week, to move into sole possession of seventh. He finished with a flourish, too, making a rare birdie at the Road Hole and adding another at No. 18.
"It was pretty, fairly easy,” Johnson said. “I chunked a few shots, which is unusual. But other than that, I really got around the golf course good. When I missed greens, I always had pitching into the wind, which is key today, just because it's so tough out there.
"I hit a lot of really good shots. I'm driving it really well right now, so that's always good, especially when I'm leaving myself with fairly easy shots into the greens."
Johnson said he was basically over what happened at Pebble Beach -- he ended up shooting 82 and finishing in a tie for eighth -- by the time he got home to Myrtle Beach and celebrated his 26th birthday.
"It was just one of those funny days in golf, and we all have them," the low-key South Carolinian said. "But I put it behind me, and all you can do is learn from things that happen and move on."
Johnson, who has three victories in as many years on the PGA TOUR, has only played once since Pebble Beach -- missing the cut at the AT&T National. He's looking forward to the opportunity for redemption on Sunday.
"I'm in a spot where I have a chance," Johnson said. "That's all you can ask for, and that's why I practice and that's why I'm here. I'm in a position where you can make a run tomorrow, and that's what it's all about."
Johnson, who missed the cut last year at Turnberry in his first British Open, has enjoyed learning how to navigate the "humps and bumps" of the Old Course, as well as how to compensate for the wind. Avoiding the steep, walled bunkers is key, and he has even learned a few new shots from his practice round buddy, Phil Mickelson.
"It's a lot of fun," Johnson said. "You hit a lot of shots that you would never hit in the States."
Like that low, running 4-iron Johnson tried from 170 yards out on the demanding 11th hole Saturday. He remembered seeing Mickelson try the same shot earlier in the week and on Saturday, it helped him make a much-coveted par on the hole playing as the fifth most difficult of the round.
"Yesterday the wind wasn't blowing quite as hard when I came through there," Johnson said. "But in the practice round, I'm playing with Phil, and he hit that shot, and I'm like, that's kind of interesting. Why would you do that? And he goes, sometimes the wind gets blowing really hard sideways, and it's too hard to control the golf ball."
Johnson said the fire inside him burns bright, even though he rarely lets his emotions show. He knows the weather will have a say in the outcome on Sunday, as will nerves and sheer will. Leading or chasing, it really doesn't matter to him. He just wants to win.
"I feel comfortable out here so I'm looking to make a run for it," Johnson said. "... Honestly I think I should contend every week. I feel like my game is good enough where I can do that, and I'm getting to the point where I'm a lot more consistent, and I'm consistently up there around the leaders. That's what I'm working at."