AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - World number one Dustin Johnson has plans on the eve of this week’s U.S. Masters and it is a safe bet they do not involve being anywhere near a staircase.
“I’m going to take it really easy,” Johnson, who was the hottest golfer on the planet a year ago when a fall down a set of stairs stopped him teeing up the next day at the Masters, said at Augusta National on Tuesday.
Johnson, who will set off in the final group of Thursday’s opening round, suffered a badly bruised back from the fall at his rental home and it took six months before he could swing a golf club freely without any discomfort.
The long-hitting American arrived at Augusta National a year ago as the favourite having earned victories in three consecutive starts against strong fields and he is chomping at the bit to chase a Green Jacket.
“Coming into last year obviously I was playing very well and it was very disappointing not to be able to play, but it was a year ago, so a lot of things have happened since then,” said Johnson.
“And this year’s a completely different year, and (I’m) really looking forward to coming into this year, especially (after) missing last year.
“I’m always excited to come back here and play. I feel like the game is in really good shape and (I’ve) got a lot of confidence coming into here this week.”
Johnson, 33, has already won once during the PGA Tour’s 2017-18 wraparound season along with two second-place finishes.
Prior to crashing out of the World Golf Championship-Dell Technologies Match Play event in Austin 11 days ago, Johnson’s worst finish in five starts this season was a tie for 16th at the Genesis Open.
While not quite as hot as last year when he arrived at the Masters on the back of victories in three consecutive starts against strong fields, Johnson has plenty to feel good about going into the season’s first major.
When asked to rate his confidence on a scale of one-to-10, the American left no doubt that he is nearly as upbeat this year as he was in 2017.
“Well, last year I was about as confident as I’ve ever been, so it was probably a 10. This year it’s probably a nine and a half,” said Johnson, a 17-times winner on the PGA Tour.
Despite being squarely focused on claiming a second major title after his U.S. Open triumph in 2016, Johnson said it was hard not to recall last year’s freak accident while preparing this week at Augusta National.
“I get asked about it every day out here on the range or walking down the fairway so I’m reminded all the time. So, yeah, I definitely was thinking about it,” he said.
“It was kind of just a freak thing and it happened, there’s nothing I can do about it except I’m here this year, hopefully I can tee it up on Thursday, and (I’ll) definitely be looking forward to that.”
Editing by Ken Ferris