Dublin, OH — When Dustin Johnson birdied the par-5 15th hole at Muirfield Village Golf Club, he knew there was a chance at a course record as he had matched the lowest ever first round at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide.
Instead his round stalled and he settled for an 8-under par 64, still good for a one shot first round lead over Brendan Steele.
“I felt like I just played well right out of the gates,” Johnson said. “I hit great shots, in the right spot on the greens and rolling in some putts. I hit it close on the first three holes and made all three of them, so that’s always a good way to start your day.”
Jordan Spieth was highly complimentary of Johnson during his press conference Wednesday calling him “arguably the best player on tour”.
Johnson himself expressed thanks for the statement but admitted that one thing has held him back, his putter.
“I feel like every week I feel like I’m up there and I’ve got a chance to win,” said Johnson. “With this game, you’ve got to make putts. I mean, it’s just what you’ve got to do. It’s something that this year I feel like I’ve struggled a little bit with, but every other part of my game I feel like is in really good shape. My wedge game has really improved. I feel like I’m driving it a little better. So every part of my game, I feel like’s getting better, just got to be a little more consistent with putting.”
Johnson stated that he has been working hard on putting and that is starting to pay off. Thursday, Johnson had 25 putts in his round.
In addition to starting with three birdies to open his day, Johnson ended the front nine with three birdies, each measuring less than six inches.
Johnson went on one last birdie streak getting a circle on his card from holes 12-15. His birdie on 13 likely presented the highest degree of difficulty as the putt was 32 feet-4 inches away from the hole. Johnson was unfazed draining it in the hole.
“I don’t think this game is ever easy, but, yeah, it’s definitely easier some days than others,” Johnson said. “Even the days like today playing really well, it’s still hard. You’re still concentrating. Today I was really comfortable out there, and I feel like my golf swing, I’m comfortable with it, got a lot of confidence in it. So it definitely makes it easier. You still got to get it done. Still got to make the putts. It doesn’t matter how good you hit it.”
The end of his round left a little to be desired but Johnson has made an early statement. He stated that he is happy with his personal life and his game is where he wants it to be.
The Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide First Round Leaders
1. Dustin Johnson -8
2. Brendan Steele -7
T-3. Jason Day -6
T-3. David Hearn -6
T-3. Matt Kuchar -6
T-3. Danny Lee -6
T-3. Hudson Swafford -6
T-8 Jason Bohn -5
T-8. Luke Donald -5
T-8. Emiliano Grillo -5
T-8. Ryan Ruffels -5
T-8 Kevin Streelman -5
Shots of the day:
Brendan Steele and David Hearn each holes out their second shots on par-4’s. Steele’s was 174 on the 18th hole and Hearn’s was 200 yards on the 10th hole.
He said it:
“Usually when you hit somebody, you’ll see people congregate. So I thought maybe it hit a cart or hit something else, but it hit this guy in the head. He looked like Ali taking hits because he didn’t go down. He was just laughing about it. Yeah, no big deal. That was impressive, nobody’s taken it as well as that marshal did on 15.” – Phil Mickelson on the marshal he hit on the 15th hole with his tee shot. The marshal received a signed glove with the words “I’m so sorry” written on it.