“If anything, I’m a little more relaxed out there. I felt like I hit a lot of good shots that didn’t end up in good spots.” Dustin Johnson plays down the pressure of being defending champion at the Masters
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 08/04/21 9:59pm
Dustin Johnson insisted he felt “no additional pressure” as defending Masters champion after opening with a two-over 74 on a tough first day at Augusta National.
Johnson appreciated the need to grind hard for pars on a course playing significantly firmer and faster than when he romped to a five-shot victory in November, while a stiff breeze added to the difficulty.
The world No 1 was just two off the lead when he birdied the 11th and 13th to get into red numbers for the day, but a poor tee shot to the short 16th cost him a bogey before he made a mess of the last, carving his drive into the pines and three-putting from 30 feet to sign off with a double-bogey six.
Despite his frustrating finish, Johnson remained only five shots off the lead and optimistic about his chances of contending for back-to-back victories, and he maintained that being the holder had not affected his focus.
“There’s no additional pressure. If anything, I’m a little more relaxed out there,” said Johnson. “It just played tough. I felt like I played pretty well, or got it around pretty well. Obviously, the last hole kind of stings a little bit, but I’ll go to the range and hit a few balls. I feel like I’m swinging well, playing good and looking forward to the rest of the week.
“The conditions are definitely different. The course is a little bit firmer and faster, but it’s still the same golf course. It’s definitely playing a lot tougher just because, when the greens are firm and fast here, the golf course plays difficult. Then you add the wind in today, it made it play really difficult, I thought.
“I’m maybe not quite as sharp as I was [in November], just more of the irons aren’t quite as sharp as they were. I feel like I’m driving it good and putting it good. Just need to dial the irons in a little bit. You’ve really got to be good with controlling your distance, which that’s what I thought was really difficult today, just with the wind. It was kind of gusty too.
“So I felt like I hit a lot of good shots that didn’t end up in good spots, just from misjudging the wind a little bit.”