Here he is again

For the third major in a row, Dustin Johnson is in the thick of things. This weekend looms extra-large for him, though, as he chases both a first major title and an automatic spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team.


Dustin Johnson was all smiles after an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole on Friday. (Getty Images)

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents

KOHLER, Wis. -- Another major championship. Another week with his name on the leaderboard.

When Dustin Johnson left Pebble Beach that painful Sunday, though, on the heels of an 82 that turned a three-stroke lead into a disappointing tie for eighth, there were those who wondered how quickly he would recover.

They didn't know Johnson very well, though.

The lanky South Carolinian got back into the mix almost immediately at the British Open a month later. He stood seventh through three rounds, albeit nine strokes behind the runaway champion Louis Oosthuizen, and eventually tied for 14th.

And Johnson's there again at the PGA Championship, three strokes off the lead through -- nearly -- two rounds of the fog-delayed final major of the season. 

Johnson fired a 68 on Friday, hours after finishing up a first-round 71, to move to 5 under for the tournament. And he'll come back Saturday hoping for another chance to show the world he's got major-championship caliber game.

"Any time you're in the hunt in a major it's a good thing and you want to capitalize on it and play good golf," Johnson said. "... I'm not looking ahead till Sunday. All I can do is focus on tomorrow and get ready as best I can for tomorrow."

The disappointment at Pebble Beach, where he had won the last two PGA TOUR events, didn't take long to get over. He went home to Myrtle Beach, celebrated his 26th birthday with friends and made a point to look forward, not back.

"It was kind of a fluke thing or whatever you want to call it," Johnson said. "I just played bad.  Golfers have bad rounds of golf, so ... I didn't dwell on it at all."

Johnson wasted little time establishing himself as a contender again on Friday, starting on the back nine at Whistling Straits and making the turn in 32, including a chip-in birdie at the 15th hole. And he responded to his first bogey of the day with an eagle at the fifth hole before he bogeyed the par-3 seventh to close out his round.

One of the biggest hitters on the PGA TOUR, Johnson had blasted a huge drive down the right side of the downwind 589-yard par 5. He had 149 yards to the hole and wedged to 30 feet and made the eagle putt.

"You can always say you let some shots get away from you, or you gave some shots away," Johnson said. "But for me, if I look at it, I don't think I drove the ball very well.  I don't think I hit my irons very well. 

"But I chipped and putted really good, so that's kind of keeping me around. But I've hit some good shots. I've never hit any, like, terrible golf shots, but to my standards, I haven't hit any really good golf shots, either."

So Johnson knows he can get better this weekend as he tries to chase down the leader, Matt Kuchar, and anyone else who vaults up the leaderboard. A major championship is at stake, as well as an automatic spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team -- Johnson currently ranks one spot away from automatic qualification come Sunday.
"Obviously I definitely would like to make it in the top eight, earn my way on the team without a captain's pick," Johnson said. "My golf will take care of that. So I can't worry about it. All I can do is focus on my golf, and if I play well, I'll be on there."