Dustin Johnson withdrew from the 3M Open on Thursday with an apparent back injury after shooting a 7-over 78 in Round 1. This a week after he shot 80-80 at the Memorial Tournament and missed the cut there. Johnson was horrendous on Thursday, and his score was even worse than it seems (if that’s possible) as the field average early on was around 1 under. D.J. was losing eight strokes to an average player in this field.
It’s been a weird stretch for D.J. both in the short and long term. In the short term, Johnson won the Travelers Championship a month ago and followed that with consecutive rounds of 80, 80 and 78. In the longer term, Johnson has been pretty mediocre since the PGA Championship last year, where he finished second to Brooks Koepka. He didn’t have a single top 10 on the PGA Tour after that and only had two on the PGA Tour (and one on the European Tour) to start 2020 before the Travelers win.
The next little stretch for Johnson will be intriguing. Next week’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis is at a course where he’s thrived (and won) in the past, and the PGA Championship at Harding Park is the week after that. I presume he’ll be skipping Memphis to prep for the first of three majors in 2020, depending on how stiff the back is.
The win at the Travelers was Johnson’s 21st in his career, an absurd number for someone in this era and a testament to how good he’s been for such a long period of time. To cement his place historically, though, he needs to start racking up major championship trophies to go with his 2016 U.S. Open. D.J. knows this as well as anyone, and this WD might be protection for that reality going into the PGA in two weeks.
Johnson was the betting favorite coming into this week’s 3M Open before firing that 7-over 78. His last WD came in 2015 at, coincidentally, the Memphis event. In his next start he finished T2 at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.