Dustin Johnson shakes off back stiffness to stay in hunt


Dustin Johnson’s status for the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational got murky when he withdrew from the 3M Tournament last week.

A back injury was reported to be the cause for the No. 5 golfer in the world’s early exit, casting doubt over his availability for this week’s tournament at TPC Southwind in Memphis. But Johnson arrived at some of his favorite stomping grounds — where he won FedEx St. Jude Classics in 2012 and 2018 — feeling fine.

It showed at times during Friday’s second round, as Johnson collected four birdies and an eagle. They helped offset four bogeys that left him at 3-under par 137, eight shots off the lead, heading into the weekend.

“It wasn’t — I didn’t injure anything,” Johnson said. “I was just really tight, so I got worked on over the weekend and (have) been getting worked on this week. No, it wasn’t really any question. As long as I could get loosened back up, I would be fine. And, you know, part of it was just from swinging poorly, which kind of messed it up. (But) feeling good now and everything’s good to go.”

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Johnson rebounded from a slow start Friday by stringing together three consecutive birdies before making the turn at No. 18. His approach shot on the par-5 16th got within 3 feet of the cup to set up an easy birdie putt.

The highlight of the round came on No. 3 when he drained a 37-footer for eagle.

Johnson has always been fond of TPC Southwind given his successes there. But he said the course has played slightly more difficult this week.

“It’s a place I’ve liked since the first time I came here. It’s a really good golf course,” Johnson said. “It’s tough, especially in these conditions. Obviously, (the course is) really soft, which is unusual. Usually it plays firm and fast. But, you know, I feel like the first two days this week have been OK. I just made too many mistakes, really. I hit a lot of good shots and made a lot of birdies, I just made too many bogeys.”

Three of Johnson’s bogeys came after intermediate-range putts came up less than 2 feet shy of the cup.

“It wasn’t — they weren’t bad putts, just barely missed them from pretty short range,” he said. “I need to roll the putter a little better tomorrow, but I felt like obviously I’m going to have to go out and shoot a good score (Saturday) and Sunday if I want a chance.”

Play resumes at 10 a.m. CT on Saturday.

Reach sports writer Jason Munz at jason.munz@commercialappeal.com or on Twitter @munzly.



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