Dustin Johnson Struggles to 1-over 73 in 1st Round of 2021 Players Championship

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2021

Dustin Johnson chips to the green on the ninth hole during the first round of the The Players Championship golf tournament Thursday, March 11, 2021, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/Associated Press

Dustin Johnson faces an uphill climb in pursuit of his first Players Championship title this week.

Johnson opened with a one-over 73, which put him in a tie for 61st when his opening round concluded. Sergio Garcia sits atop the leaderboard at seven under.  

The two-time major champion struggled in his last outing, tying for 54th in the WGC-Workday Championship. He told reporters he didn't drive the ball well at Concession Golf Club, which caused a domino effect for the rest of his performance.

In addition to diagnosing his problem, Johnson felt good about the Players Championship due to the timing of the event.

"The golf course plays a little better," he said. "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."

In retrospect, Johnson's confidence may have been slightly misplaced.

The 36-year-old got off to a good start, carding a par on No. 1 and then birdieing No. 2. His momentum stalled from there, and he fell back to even par with a bogey on No. 6.

Johnson encountered big trouble on the par-five 11th hole when his approach landed well short of the green and in the water. After getting onto the green in five, he two-putted his way to a double bogey.

The South Carolina native rallied back to eagle No. 16. Following a 320-yard drive, he dropped his approach within 15 feet of the flagstick. He still had a tricky putt but found the bottom of the cup to climb to even par.

Johnson gave one stroke back on the very next hole. Unlike others in the field, he successfully navigated his way onto the famous island green off the tee. His birdie putt rolled past the hole, however, and his par putt met the same fate.

Poor putting was a theme throughout the day. According to PGATour.com, Johnson's 2.091 putts per green in regulation are tied for 145th.

His iron play wasn't great, either, as he reached 11 greens in regulation.

Looking ahead to Friday, Johnson is once again grouped with Bryson DeChambeau and Collin Morikawa for the second round, and they're scheduled to tee off at 7:40 a.m. ET.

Although he doesn't appear to be in danger of missing the cut, his title hopes are already hanging by a thread.