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February 09, 2012

Dustin Johnson brings good memories, new driver and a bunch of putters to Pebble

DjPEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Dustin Johnson, who had knee surgery in the off-season, hasn’t had the results he’s hoped for so far in 2012, but perhaps the pieces will come together at Pebble Beach, where he has some memorable history.

The 27-year-old won the 2009 and 2010 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and, more famously, suffered an epic collapse at Pebble later that year at the U.S. Open. He started the final round with a three-shot lead, which quickly disappeared when he triple-bogeyed the second hole, double-bogeyed the third and shot 82.

“I always enjoy coming back,” Johnson said in between smashing drivers on the range Tuesday. “Obviously I’ve had a lot of success here, so I always look forward to this week. I have a great partner and a good group, so we’re going to have a lot of fun.”

Johnson attributed his stellar record at this event in part to the more relaxed pro-am format.

“We go out there and we have fun,” he said. “You know, I think that’s why I like it. It doesn’t seem like there’s quite as much pressure on you this week, no matter what’s going on. You’ve got your amateur partners with you, and you usually just have a good time, and I just enjoy the atmosphere and these golf courses.”

Johnson is partnered with Joe Rice, an attorney and friend. Kyle Thompson and Nat Hardwick, CEO of Landcastle Title, complete the foursome. It’s no coincidence they’re all South Carolina natives.

After withdrawing from the Humana Challenge due to a stiff back, Johnson, who finished T43 in San Diego and T61 in Phoenix, has been frustrated with his game, especially his putting.

“It’s been a little bit of a process, coming off an injury,” said Johnson. ”I hadn’t been swinging all that well, so it’s been kind of hard to fit me for a driver, but I think we have it pretty dialed in now this week with the new r11S, so I’m excited about that.”

He said his knee is feeling just fine, but he hasn't been walking every day he plays because he doesn’t want to overdo it.

Johnson has also been searching for the answer to his putting woes. He pulled his old faithful Scotty Cameron at last week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open and replaced it with a TaylorMade Itsy Bitsy Spider Ghost putter. And this week?

“I have a whole bunch of putters,” said Johnson, with a hint of exasperation. “I don’t know which one I’m going with yet."

(Photo: Carlos M. Saavedra/SI)

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