Dustin Johnson Pushes the Lead at HSBC

Dustin Johnson had one of those days at the WGC-HSBC Champions, one of those good days. He shot a course record-tying round of 9-under 63 at Sheshan International in Shanghai, China. Together with his first round 69, he’s now at 12-under with a 5-shot lead over the trio of Bubba Watson (-3), Boo Weekley (-5) and Rory McIlroy (E):

Yeah, I’m definitely happy where I’m at.  You know, played really well the last two days.  Got off to a fast start [sic] yesterday, 2‑over.  Actually 1‑over through the first nine holes, and then played good on the front side, which was my back side.

Then started right back up today and played really good on the front.  And another good, solid back nine, and you know, just the last two days, I’ve really drove the ball really well.

You know, for me, that’s a big key.  Drove it well today and I hit a lot of good iron shots, and I think it’s kind of tough to get it really close to these holes, but you know, I made a lot of nice ten‑, 15‑footers today.

“Drove it well” is sort of an understatement. He actually demoralize his playing partner, Graeme McDowell: 

…it was kind of tough to focus when playing with Dustin Johnson, hitting it 350 yards in the middle of the fairways.  It was kind of a little demoralizing at times.

Like I say, DJ drove the ball phenomenal for two days.  Looked a little loose coming in there today — you know, who knows.  If he keeps playing the way he’s played the last two days, he’ll be tough to catch.  But there’s a long way to go, a lot of quality players in this tournament.  There’s a lot of low scores in this golf course, and like I say, just happy to be kind of in contention going into the weekend.

On the other hand, having a front row seat to what might be possible on this golf course can be a little inspiring, right?

Yeah, you know, what’s possible for an athlete like him who just rips it; that’s not what’s possible for the rest of us sometimes.  It was probably one of the best driving displays I’ve seen this year for sure.  It was pretty immense.  He’s got a short game to match, as well.

So he’s an impressive guy.  When he’s in the mood and when he’s on form, he’s pretty prolific.

There are some short par-4s on the course, but here are the ones over 450 yards: 459, 456, 486, 456, 487. Pretty substantive, no? Johnson never hit more than an 8-iron into the par-4s:

Hit to a par 4?  I don’t know, not very long.  8‑iron maybe.  To a par 4, 8‑iron would be max.

One of the other skill sets of great players have is selective memories. Last year, he had three rounds in the 60s and an 82.

I shot a 35‑47.  That’s how I shot 82.  I made a couple — I made a triple, a double, a quad, I don’t know.  It was a bad day.  Don’t really think about it.  (Laughter).

Rory McIlroy, on the other hand, was unable to conjure up his first round memories of his 7-under 65 and ended up shooting even par on the day:

Disappointing, frustrating.  Obviously played nicely the front nine and then started to hit a lot of sloppy shots on the back.  Missed the last six greens in a row.  Missed seven greens on the back nine, so a bit of work needed on the range this afternoon.

Yeah, just one of those things.  Just hit a couple of bad shots and then I guess I let it affect me a little bit and then I started to doubt myself sometimes.  Didn’t hit a lot of quality shots on the back nine.

He started strong on the front side with 3 birdies, but then it slowly unraveled on him:

Yeah, as I said, I think I hit the first ten greens, so that wasn’t — and then I made bogey on 11 and I had a chance at 12 and then from there on 13, I hit a bad drive up the left and then just sort of knocked my confidence a little bit and started to struggle from there.  A bit of work on the range this afternoon and hopefully come out tomorrow and play a bit better.

When you fall into the bad-shot vortex after a couple of bad ones, it’s easy to become unnerved. You end up monitoring your swing rather than playing to targets. How can you play to targets when you don’t know what your swing is going to produce? But that robs you of your natural instincts and the vortex wins again.

Take it from the No. 6 player in the world…who is the No. 6 player in the world because he’s always looking forward:

Yeah, I mean, it would have been nice to play a bit better and start tomorrow with a few more shots in hand but I guess I’m in a decent position going into the weekend, and still have a great chance at winning this tournament.

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