Dustin Johnson began Sunday’s Open Championship in seventh, should he go low at St. Andrews, he’ll flirt with the lead, and all of that is very respectable. It’s just that Paul McGinley wonders.
Could he have applied the pressure after a birdie at 10 moved him to 12 under during Saturday’s third round? (The leaders started Sunday at 16 under.) Would DJ have been sharper ahead of a 4-foot miss on 13? Would he have been more careful on 14, when he rolled his ball, from just off the green, into a greenside bunker?
Johnson, you may have heard, plays his golf now for LIV Golf, and because he does, DJ has played three tournaments since the PGA Championship, and two if you drop the US Open. And McGinley believes there’s a connection between that and Johnson’s Open fate.
The longtime pro and former Ryder Cup captain, now working as an analyst for Golf Channel, believes you need reps.
“I’ve played professional golf for 25 years; I’ve observed the very best players, as well as I’ve played at a very top level myself,” McGinley said Saturday on Golf Channel’s Live from the Open Championship. “And a lot of it is my experience and instinct and feel. I’m a great believer, at the very, very elite level of so much of it comes down to competitiveness. And I’m also a great believer in preparing, being prepared, like training, like athletes train. You got to train to be competitive.
“And you do that from cutting your teeth in professional golf.”
And what does that accomplish?
“Playing four-round tournaments, there’s a rhythm to doing that,” McGinley said on Golf Channel. “You got to be playing a lot of that to keep the rhythm going. And you work your way into the rhythm of playing and winning in tournaments.”
A few things here. McGinley was quick to say his thought of him was not so much a LIV Golf one, as it was for any pro player who opts for a limited schedule. In fact, he holds the same belief for the chances of Tiger Woods, who’s played only the Masters, PGA Championship and this week’s Open, where he missed the cut. And yes, it’s very possible to play well and even win with little tournament play, and golfers have done that.
Then again, McGinley said it makes playing the most difficult events all the more so.
“I don’t see the body of work going in for the reasons that he’s gone to the LIV tour and he’s playing over there — this is not an anti-LIV statement — but when he’s going over there and playing in these three tournaments, shotgun starts, it’s a completely different vibe. It’s not preparing yourself for a four-round tournament that a major championship is,” he said on Golf Channel. “… I don’t see the body of work going in, and preparing for that exam is really important, getting into the rhythm of professional golf. And, as I say, it’s the same reason I’m not fancying Tiger Woods until he can hopefully play some PGA tournaments in between these majors before we can ever see Tiger competing to any way reasonably to the standard he used to do.
“And that’s what I saw with DJ: He’s off the pace because you’re not playing the same exam that these are. It’s a very, very different test and a different mindset.”
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism