Dustin Johnson Struggles, Shoots Opening-Round 76 at 2021 PGA Championship

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVMay 20, 2021

KIAWAH ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA - MAY 20: Dustin Johnson of the United States lines up a putt on the third green during the first round of the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island Resort's Ocean Course on May 20, 2021 in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Dustin Johnson has a lot of work ahead as he chases his first PGA Championship title at Kiawah Island Golf Resort in his native South Carolina.

Johnson, who didn't finish lower than third in the tournament in his last two tries, opened Thursday with a four-over 76. Corey Conners leads the field at five under, with six golfers tied for second at three under.

That puts a lot of distance between Johnson and the top of the leaderboard.

The top-ranked golfer in the world got his 2021 PGA Championship off to an inauspicious start. He sliced his tee shot on No. 1, and it rolled off the fairway toward the waste bunker. His approach on the second shot sailed well past the green into another bunker before he settled for a bogey.

Johnson rebounded nicely with a birdie on No. 2 but once again got himself into trouble on the par-four fourth hole. His tee shot hooked to the left and out of bounds, forcing him to take a one-shot penalty. His approach shot wasn't much better as it bounced to the left of the green and into the thick. After finally getting onto the green with his fourth shot, Johnson two-putted his way to a double bogey.

The 36-year-old did well to mitigate the damage from there with 13 straight pars. His par save on No. 16 was particularly impressive as he successfully navigated his way out of the native area and then a green-side bunker.

In general, that run also meant he was unable to make up any ground. Consistency only goes so far once you've dug yourself into a hole.

Johnson ended his evening on a low note after his drive landed in the area and an equally sloppy approach required a drop on No. 18. That led to his second double bogey of the round. 

Kiawah Island hosted the PGA Championship in 2012, when Johnson had a nondescript first round. A 79 in Round 2 doomed any hopes of a title, and he settled for a share of 48th.

It looks like this year's installment will be similarly frustrating for the two-time major champion.

Phil Casey @pcaseysafc

Interesting that @DJohnsonPGA seems to have been ruthlessly culled from the TV broadcast...

Simply making the cut could prove to be a challenge based on how Friday gets underway.

Johnson returns to action alongside Sergio Garcia and Shane Lowry. They'll start from the No. 10 tee at 8:44 a.m. ET