Four weeks after infamously tumbling down a flight of stairs and missing the Masters with the ensuing back injury, Dustin Johnson can sum up how he is feeling in four simple words:
“I’m good to go.”
Johnson will return to the PGA Tour this week when the Wells Fargo Championship tees off on Thursday. Despite feeling good, Johnson admits the soreness in his back lasted longer than he planned, hindering his preparation.
“I haven’t practiced much the last few weeks,” Johnson said. “Obviously I had to rest and it was sore for a while, a lot longer than I thought it would be.”
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With what’s happened off the course since he last played, it’s easy to forget that Dustin Johnson, the world No. 1, was the hottest player on tour before his fateful fall. The longest hitter on tour added an air-tight short game to his repertoire and won three straight tournaments heading into the Masters.
“I wanted to be there playing. I was playing the best golf of my career leading into the Masters so I didn’t want to watch it on TV, but things happen and I’m back out here playing now.”
Being laid up on the couch obviously interrupted Johnson’s momentum, and expectations should be tampered accordingly. Johnson himself even hints that his winning streak may be coming to an end soon.
“I don’t really have many expectations, but I’m feeling good,” Johnson said. “I feel like I am swinging really well so we’ll just have to see what happens.”
The Wells Fargo Championship should serve as a barometer for Johnson as his schedule picks up. Next week’s Players Championship–generally considered the most important of the non-majors–and the US Open in mid-June, bookend a crucial six-week stretch that is more likely to define Johnson’s season than his wins in February and March. Johnson is also committed to the AT&T Byron Nelson, May 18-21, which would be his third event in three weeks.
With abbreviated preparation, a potentially lingering injury, and the most important events still to come, expectations for Johnson should be low this week. Four competitive rounds without any hint of back pain, and perhaps something in the 60s on Sunday to regain momentum heading into the Players Championship would be a resounding success for Johnson. Of course, a missed cut, and two extra days of rest, might not be the worst thing either.