Dustin Johnson's 69 has him in the Tour Championship mix after the first round

By Alan Blondin
Published on
Dustin Johnson's 69 has him in the Tour Championship mix after the first round

ATLANTA, Ga. -- When Dustin Johnson drives the ball well, he usually scores well.

That's a byproduct of his prodigious length off the tee.

LEADERBOARD: Tour Championship

In his opening round Thursday of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club, his front- and back-nine scores belied his driving statistics.

Despite hitting just one fairway off the tee on the front nine, Johnson made the turn 1 under. Despite hitting six of seven fairways off the tee on the back nine, Johnson played his final nine at even par.

The combined 1-under 69 in favorable scoring conditions that included an overcast sky and little wind has Johnson tied for 11th after the first round.

"I'm definitely pleased. Anything under par on this golf course is really good," Johnson said. "I think I shot about as high as I could, but I'm pleased with the way I played. It was a pretty easy day. I was never really in too much trouble."

The 69 matches Johnson's second-best opening round in his six visits to East Lake, surpassed only by a 68 in 2013, when Johnson recorded his best Tour Championship finish of fifth.

Henrik Stenson threatened to pull a Jason Day and jump well ahead of the rest of the field, as he was 8-under par through 12 holes before playing the final six holes 1 over for a 63 that is two better than Paul Casey.

Only four players shot better than 68 Thursday.

Johnson entered the Tour Championship seventh in FedExCup points, and to claim the $10 million bonus for winning the FedExCup he needs to win this week and have Day and Jordan Spieth both finish worse than a tie for second.

Spieth is one of six players tied for fifth at 68 and Day is one of six players tied with Johnson at 69.

Johnson made four birdies and three bogeys, and was 2 under before making a pair of bogeys on the par-4 13th and 14th holes after hitting approach shots a yard or less over the greens. The approach shot on the 14th was with a lob wedge.

"Both times I hit clubs where I thought there was no way it was going to go over the green because that's the one place I didn't want to go," Johnson said. "Both times it went just like a foot too far. They were still good shots. So I'm happy with the way I hit it and played today, just those two holes making bogey from the fairway [hurt], first not hitting the green then second not getting those two up and down."

The back-to-back bogeys followed a missed quick 7-foot birdie putt on the 12th. Johnson bounced back with a birdie on the par-5 15th hole, hitting a 90-yard wedge to 3 feet after finding a fairway bunker off the tee.

He missed a 13-foot uphill birdie putt on the par-4 16th and chipped to a couple feet on the par-3 18th from about a foot off the green.

"The rough is tough to chip out of," Johnson said. "... On 18 it came out how I thought it was going to, the other holes it did not."

Johnson hit several quality shots out of the rough on the front nine, missing just one green in regulation. He had birdie putts of 16 and 13 feet on the first two holes before draining a 36-footer for birdie on the third hole. He holed par putts between 4 and 6 feet on the next three holes before holing an 18-foot birdie putt on the seventh hole to reach 2 under.

A missed fairway and green on the par-4 eighth hole led to his first bogey, he missed an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-5 ninth hole and rolled in a 7-foot birdie putt on the par-4 10th to get back to 2 under.

"This course is fairways and greens. That's what I was trying to do, just get looks at birdie all day," Johnson said. "But the greens out here are tough. I missed a few putts. But they're so fast. If you get above the hole it's so hard to get it online. I hit some really good putts that didn't go in, starting on the first hole. I don't know how that one stopped in the middle going downhill."

The Coastal Carolina alumnus will be looking to replicate his second round last week in the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club outside Chicago, where Johnson shot a 9-under 62 last Friday.

Players are re-paired based on scores each day, so Johnson is scheduled to tee off at 1 p.m. Friday with Daniel Berger, though rain is expected both Friday and Saturday at East Lake.

This article was written by Alan Blondin from The Sun News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.