Pump the brakes in naming Dustin Johnson the 2018 U.S. Open champion. Yes, he owns a commanding four-shot lead over the field, but there are still 36 holes to play at the always demanding and often penalizing Shinnecock Hills.
Here's why the current leader will falter.
Perhaps the fact Johnson does not have all facets of his game firing makes his lead even more remarkable, as he ranks 81st in the field in strokes gained: approach heading into the weekend. DJ leads the field in strokes gained: around the green and strokes gained: putting, seemingly getting up-and-down from everywhere, and dropping multiple bombs for birdie. If any aspects in his game were to falter, it would be the highly variant and unpredictable short game and putting areas. Johnson has only hit 21 of 36 greens in regulation and the dependency on his short game and putting could come back to bite him.
The incredible chasing field
(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)
The leaderboard is loaded with elite golfers who sit at 1-over, five shots back. Major champions Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka, and Henrik Stenson linger alongside Tommy Fleetwood, who is also an incredible talent. It won't be easy for Johnson to fend off this charging field, who proved the ability to score well at Shinnecock Hills. Both Koepka and Fleetwood carded 4-under 66s in Round 2, and the other three can easily do the same. As shown frequently through two days, double-bogeys and triple-bogeys occur often at Shinnecock and one errant tee shot from DJ can alter the landscape of the tournament.
Not a pure closer
Johnson's 18 career PGA Tour wins puts him in elite territory, but it isn't a guarantee he hoists the trophy when holding a 36-hole lead, or even a 54-hole lead. With his win last week at the St. Jude Classic, Johnson is eight for 15 in converting 36-hole advantages and only six for 13 from 54-hole leads. Earlier this season, Johnson blew a 7-shot advantage heading into the final round of the WGC-HSBC Champions event in China, firing a final-round 77 to finish third behind Rose and Stenson - two names familiar to the U.S. Open leaderboard.
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