Dustin Johnson’s first trip to TPC Twin Cities last year was short and not particularly sweet.
Though he won the Travelers Championship a month prior, Johnson arrived in Blaine, Minn., fresh off a Memorial tournament in which he shot consecutive rounds of 80.
Still, he was the overwhelming favorite coming to Minnesota, a birdie course he was expected to pick apart. Instead, Johnson struggled to a first-round 78 and withdrew with back pain.
“Just wasn’t feeling good. The back was stiff, so it was tough for me to swing the way I wanted to. Obviously was struggling a little bit,” Johnson recalled Wednesday. “So went home, rested, got worked on, and obviously that was when I started playing really well after this.”
Really, really well. Johnson recorded a 12th-place finish the following week at the FedEx St. Jude Invitational, a World Golf Championship event. That marked his worst finish until he finished 54th at the next WGC event the following February — an 11-tournament span that featured four wins, including at the Masters, and three runner-up performances.
“Obviously went on a great run there,” Johnson said. “I was working hard on the game and got to where it felt like I was seeing just the same things every day, feeling the same kind of things in my swing and the same kind of shots, just a lot of consistency with everything that I was doing.”
Of course, in golf, all great runs come to an end. Even Tiger Woods had brief patches in his career where he sputtered. That’s not to say Johnson has been bad of late, but he did endure a six-tournament stretch in 2021 where he finished better than 48th just once, including missing the cut in his Masters defense in April and at the PGA Championship in May.
But Johnson has been better of late. He has finished in the top 25 in each of his past four starts, most recently placing eighth at The Open. Perhaps another dominant stretch is right around the corner for the 37-year-old.
“Things are starting to turn around a little bit. I felt like I haven’t had a great season so far, but I feel like the game, it’s starting to come back into form. I’m starting to see a lot more consistency with the game, starting to play a little bit better,” he said. “Other than last week, had a little seven-hole stretch there in the third round where I just made a lot of easy bogeys, just hit the ball in the wrong spots. Other than that, I felt like I played really solid all week and played pretty well other than those few holes. Yeah, I’m pleased where the game’s at and pleased with the stuff that I’m seeing so far.”
Johnson, who opens the tournament on the 10th tee at 7:23 a.m. Thursday, said he likes what he has seen from himself in practice the past couple of days. He feels TPC Twin Cities fits his game well, despite what that wayward round last season suggests.
Perhaps this week’s 3M Open can be the launching pad to the next great Dustin Johnson run to remember.
“I’m starting to see a lot of similarities (to 2020), and obviously that’s the form I’m trying to get back to where I felt like I had a chance to win every single week I teed it up,” he said. “I feel like that’s starting to get back into that form.”