Dustin Johnson said his friend Brooks Koepka has a golf game that reminds him of someone with whom he is very familiar.
“I see a lot of myself as far as [he] hits it long, hits it straight,” Johnson said on Saturday after finishing his third round 5-under par and in a distant, four-way tie for second place at the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.
“He’s just good everywhere. Obviously to be one of the best players in the world you have to have a good all-around game.”
One might also say that if someone is to pull of one of the most startling comebacks in golf history on Sunday, he will need to be “good everywhere.”
So logic suggests that among the group in second place, Johnson has the best chance to make it interesting. He is the world’s top-ranked player, is a former U.S. Open champion and has the brawny game to tame Bethpage.
Johnson said that there is no point in changing his strategy to try to overcome Koepka’s seven-stroke lead.
“There’s really nothing you can do on this golf course to change your approach,” he said. “If I can hit it in the fairway there’s not a hole that I don’t feel like I can’t attack. If I’m driving it in the fairway and coming out of the fairway you can control the golf ball, and the greens are fairly receptive.
“Every time I was in the fairway I hit a shot that gave myself a really good look at birdie. I have a lot of confidence in the irons and driving it well, too. I just need to limit my misses.”
Johnson had a rollercoaster, 1-under-par round that included six birdies and five bogeys, including one on the 18th hole that cost him a spot in the final pairing on Sunday. Instead he will go off third-to-last.
“I felt like I played well, just made too many bogeys,” he said. “It wasn’t one thing or another. Wind got me a couple of times. Hit some drives that I thought should have ended up better than they did . . . Missed quite a few short birdie putts. Missed a couple of short par putts.
“Overall I thought I swung the golf club very well. I drove it well. I putted pretty well even though missed a few short ones. But I still felt like I rolled it well and rolled it where I wanted to, just misread a couple of short ones.”
Johnson said the wind was “tricky all day. It blew from every direction you can think of throughout the round. And it wasn’t like it was just a little breeze. It was blowing pretty hard. It definitely picked up in the last hour.”
After relisting the various factors in his up-and-down day, he finally stopped himself and said, “Shoulda, coulda, woulda. Go out there and do it tomorrow.”
What is that going to take? “I’m going to need some help from [Koepka],” he said, “and then I’m going to have to play very, very well.”