MAUI, Hawaii — TaylorMade Tour Staff professional Dustin Johnson is off to remarkably sharp start to the 2013 PGA Tour season, capitalizing on a shortened leaderboard and severe weather conditions en route to back-to-back rounds of 69 and 66 Monday in Maui, taking a commanding 3-shot lead into the final round of the 54-hole Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Johnson, wielding the new R1 driver at RocketBladez Tour irons at the outset of the new season, maximized every opportunity on Monday on his way to a 36-hole total of 135, three better than the 30-man field at Kapalua, and appears poised to take home his third career victory in a shortened event. From a 410-yard drive with the new R1 to a 242-yard 5-iron that set up a closing eagle putt on the 18th green Monday evening, Johnson was a showstopper virtually all day, particularly in the second round in which he carded six birdies and an eagle. The most telling statistic from Monday, and a positive nod to his iron change, is that through two rounds, Johnson has hit a career-best 33 of 36 Greens in Regulation with RocketBladez Tour.
On a softened Kapalua layout that favors longer hitters, it would appear as though Johnson is prepared to take on some of golf’s greatest talents in a game of “Catch Me If You Can” on Tuesday, what with his length and hot putter making it seem all but improbable for a fellow competitor to post a number capable of preventing him from a seventh career PGA Tour victory. You’ll recall his last victory came at the 2012 FedEx St. Jude Classic, his sixth PGA Tour win in four years, which earned his spot in this week’s HToC.
A favorite of media pundits at the start of the week, Johnson has made the most of his concentrated practice time in Maui, showing up days in advance of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions to get familiar with the layout at Kapalua, paying close attention to the nuances and highlighting potential advantages on the long, demanding layout. Perhaps his greatest strength, given the wind conditions – players faced more than 30 MPH gusts on Monday – is his length, most notably on the Par-5s like No. 18 where he has taken advantage of shorter approach shots to maximize his scoring opportunities.
Will Monday’s final putt, a short eagle on the 18th that pushed Johnson to -11 for the tournament and three shots ahead of the field, translate to another big win on Tuesday? We’ll be watching closely as the HToC comes down to the wire. Be sure to follow TaylorMade Tour Diaries for all the latest from Hawaii as we’ll be updating throughout the day as Johnson chases a season-opening win at Kapalua.