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Dustin Johnson marches to a better beat at the Players Championship this time of year


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Here’s some unwelcome news for those in the field of the Players Championship – Dustin Johnson has gotten more comfortable playing the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

More specifically, he loves playing the course in March.

“The golf course plays a little better,” Johnson said Tuesday after a practice round. “Obviously the rough’s a little thicker, it plays longer, but the greens are a little more receptive, you can actually hit some shots. So I think the course plays better overseeded and playing this time of year and I definitely like it better.

“I definitely feel like I play it a little better, too.”

The Players: TPC Sawgrass yardage book

The world No. 1 and reigning Masters champion will be making his 12th start in the Players and he’d like to forget about his first eight. While he gathered up wins each year at other venues, he only finished in the top 30 once in his first eight starts at TPC Sawgrass. In his first 22 rounds, he broke par just five times.

He got the hang of it a little better in 2017 and 2018 when he tied for 12th and 17th. Then, in 2019, the tournament switched dates from May to March and Johnson tied for fifth and broke 70 in every round for the first time.

“Obviously I like playing this time of year better,” Johnson said. “I definitely look forward to coming to the Players. It’s one of our biggest events. We always say it’s kind of the fifth major, so it’s got a great field, it’s at a great venue.

“It plays tougher but the conditions are better. The golf course is in fantastic condition and I feel like the game’s in pretty good form coming in.”

After winning four times and finishing runner-up three time in nine starts, Johnson tied for eighth in the Genesis Invitational north of Los Angeles and tied for 54th in the World Golf Championships-Workday Championship at The Concession in his last two starts.

Nothing to be alarmed about, he said.

“Didn’t drive it my best and so I played pretty poorly. Pretty simple,” he said of his last start.

The fix sounded just as simple.

“A little bit of practice,” he said. “Ball position was getting a little too far back, which causes me to hit it kind of both ways and so fixed the ball position and drove it great today, so hopefully that will continue, because I went for a long time where I was really driving it really well.

“If I’m missing it left, generally something’s off and so that’s kind of what I was doing at Concession, and even at L.A. So just takes a little bit to work but fixed it and feel pretty good over the driver now.”

Feels pretty good standing on the TPC Sawgrass turf in March, too.

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