The Masters: Johnson happy at halfway stage – I like where I'm at

By Sports Desk November 13, 2020

Dustin Johnson intends to be aggressive at Augusta over the weekend as he aims to go one better than last year's runner-up finish at the Masters. 

The world number one began his bid for glory at the final major of the coronavirus-impacted year with an impressive seven-under round of 65 on Thursday.

He was not quite able to produce a repeat on Friday, though a birdie at the ninth – his last hole of the day – was enough for a score of 70, putting him on nine under par at the halfway stage. 

Johnson is pleased with his overall position and, with the switch to November due to the COVID-19 pandemic making for different course conditions, made clear the need to keep playing positively throughout the remainder of the tournament. 

Asked about conditions for the upcoming rounds in his media conference, Johnson said: "I think it can firm up a little bit, but it's going to be tough for it to get firm.   

"I think it's going to be soft enough to where you're going to have to attack the golf course and play aggressive and keep swinging like I am.  

"I like where I'm at. I like my position. Obviously, I feel like I'll be somewhere around the lead, probably not in the lead, but within a few shots, at least, and in a good position heading into the weekend."

Johnson, who ended up in a share of second behind winner Tiger Woods in 2019, made clear the par-five holes will be pivotal to his chances of success. 

The 36-year-old was runner-up in Houston on the PGA Tour prior to the Masters and is pleased with his overall game, raising hopes he can enjoy another major success to add to his 2016 triumph at the U.S. Open. 

On his situation after 36 holes, he said: "Before I teed off, I think I would have taken it.  

"Obviously I feel like I played a little bit better than my position right now, but you know, I'm still happy with the way I'm swinging it, how I'm controlling the golf ball and everything I'm doing. You know, rolling the putter good. Just hopefully can see a few more go in over the weekend.   

"For me, [I] just need to play the par fives a little bit better over the weekend. I think that's the only thing that I need to really do any better is just figure out how to get some better looks on the par fives." 

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    The American sits a shot clear of Byeong Hun An, who fired a 65 on the same course.

    Hagy is in the lead through 18 holes for the second time in his PGA Tour career and first since the 2017 Canadian Open.

    Kim Si-woo produced the best round of players who started on the PGA West Stadium Course, his 66 – which featured an eagle at the fifth hole – seeing him sit tie for third.

    Martin Laird and Max Homa are alongside Kim, two shots adrift of Hagy.

    A group of nine players opened with 67s, including Charl Schwartzel and Alex Noren.

    Defending champion Andrew Landry, meanwhile, carded a two-under 70 on the Stadium Course to be back in a tie for 61st.

  • McIlroy hits the front as under-fire Thomas toils after Abu Dhabi fog delay McIlroy hits the front as under-fire Thomas toils after Abu Dhabi fog delay

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    "I think I started off really well and hit a lot of nice iron shots, but honestly it was probably the best I've putted these greens in Abu Dhabi probably in my whole career.

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    Thomas will be playing without shirt branding in Abu Dhabi after Ralph Lauren opted to end its partnership with the 27-year-old.

    Asked about the company's decision, Thomas replied: "I think disappointed is the wrong word. 

    "Obviously I was upset. But at the end of the day, they have that right. They had to make the decision that they had to make. I spoke with them along with all my sponsors. 

    "Although I apologised, it's like it was then; it's an opportunity for me to grow and I felt like it was something we could have done together and gone through that process. 

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    Thomas confirmed conversations have been held with his other sponsors, adding: "I've had great communication with all of them. 

    "It was obviously not calls or e-mails I was hoping or planning to make but I needed to because I have some great long-lasting partnerships with all my sponsors. They know that's not the person that I am.

    "They know that's not how I act and although they are far from brushing it to the side just like I am, they understand that this is an opportunity for me to educate myself, grow, become a better person, and just like they hope, I know that I'll become a better man and a better person because of it, and they are going to kind of help me along that process."

    Thomas earned the backing of Rory McIlroy, who is confident his on-course rival will learn from his error in judgement.

    "I think he's already responded really, really well," the four-time major winner said. 

    "I think he realised he made a big mistake as soon as it was brought to him and he completely owned up to it. He said he messed up; he's going to try to be better. 

    "And you know, Justin is true to his word. He will be. If anything, it will probably just make him a better person than he already is, which is hard because he's already a great guy."

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