Wednesday January 9, 2013
Sizzling Johnson takes lead after marathon day in Kapalua
MAUI (Hawaii): The 2013 US PGA Tour season finally got going on Monday, with Dustin Johnson opening up a three-shot lead as 30 golfers played the first two rounds of the Tournament of Champions.
High winds prevented any rounds from being completed from Friday through Sunday on the par-73 Plantation Course at Kapalua.
The tournament, reduced to 54 holes, was slated to end early today. Johnson emerged from the Monday marathon on 11-under 135 after posting rounds of 69 and 66.
“I wasn’t tired at all,” Johnson said of the day’s double duty. “We had not played any golf, so I was ready to go, first round of the year, play 36 holes. This course is a tough walk and it’s really windy out there, but I’m in pretty good shape. I can handle it.”
He ended the day on a high note, with an eagle on the par-five 18th in the second round. That went with six birdies and one bogey in his seven-under effort.
“I hit a good drive,” Johnson said of the 18th. “I just hit it a little too far right, but it actually had a pretty good angle.”
He said he thought his six-iron approach would be a bit short but it ended up “just perfect” and rolled close to the hole to leave him a putt for eagle.
Defending champion Steve Stricker carded a 71 and 67 for sole possession of second place on eight-under 138.
Stricker found the long day heavy going thanks to an apparent back problem that causes shooting pains down one of his legs.
“Nobody knows if it’s a muscle with pressure on the sciatic nerve or if there’s a problem with a disc,” said Stricker, who said his back did not hurt but the ailment does not allow him to hit full strength.
“I’m just trying to keep it in front of me and play the smart shots,” added Stricker, who admitted he was not sure when the day began if he would be able to finish 36 holes.
“Fortunately it didn’t get any worse and that was the best part - it just stayed the same all day,” said Stricker, who expected to tee it up yesterday in a bid to retain his title. “I’ll get some rest tonight and hopefully I’ll feel better tomorrow.”
Masters champion Bubba Watson was a further shot back on 139 after a 70 and 69. Keegan Bradley and Brandt Snedeker were tied for fourth on six-under 140.
Johnson, who will be gunning for his seventh US PGA Tour title on Tuesday, has a bit of history on his side. He won the last two US PGA Tour events played over just 54 holes.
Johnson denied he knew a secret to winning a three-round tournament, saying he “just happened to win those two events“.
“You know, I’ve still got 18 more holes of golf. It wouldn’t matter if it was 72 holes or 54. Tomorrow is still the last round and there’s 18 holes to play, so got to get the job done.” — AFP