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PGA Championship: Dustin Johnson rides birdie binge on back of the Black

Dustin Johnson tees off at No. 1 on

Dustin Johnson tees off at No. 1 on Friday, his 10th hole of the day, on the way to a 3-under-par 67 and a two-day total of 4-under 136. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Dustin Johnson is the world’s top-ranked golfer and a former U.S. Open champion, so it is no surprise to see him in contention at the PGA Championship.

But after a bogey on his first hole Friday, he ripped off five birdies in seven holes, he added to his degree of difficulty by doing so on the back nine at Bethpage Black, considered the harder of the course’s halves.

He birdied the 15th, 16th and 17th in succession. “Fifteen, 16, 17 are three really tough holes,” he said, “but on this golf course, if I drive it in the fairway, I can attack pretty much every hole, so that was the key there.”

Johnson then bogeyed No. 18 before heading for the front nine, which he played in even par. Net result: a 67 that left him 4 under for the first two rounds.

“I hit the ball well, gave myself a lot of opportunities,” he said. “Any time you shoot 3 under around here, you’re always happy with it.

“Obviously, it can always be better. I missed quite a few short ones there from 18 [feet] to 5, but if I keep giving myself chances, I feel like I’m rolling the putter well. Just a couple of misreads.”

Johnson called the Bethpage greens “tricky” and “very subtle.”

“You’re trying to read breaks and I missed a lot of putts just playing too much break,” he said. “But then you play one and you don’t play enough break. They’re hard to read. I felt like I made good putts, so I just have to keep doing that.”

Was he thinking about making a big run during his birdie streak? “I wasn’t thinking anything other than the next shot I had to hit,” he said. “But yeah, you can get it going out there.”

He added: “I feel like I’m in a very good position. I feel happy with where I’m at. No matter what the lead is after today, I’m going to be somewhere around it, close enough to where with 36 holes left, I’m OK.”

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