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Third time lucky for DJ?

DUSTIN Johnson leads the first round for the third major in a row, but will the weight of history work against him?

IN the case of Greg Norman, sometimes we remember the runner-up better than the winner. Over the last five years we may have developed a similar fascination with Dustin Johnson.

Thankfully for Norman’s sake, he has two Claret Jugs while Johnson is yet to win a major, despite being so close, so often.

Johnson's performances in 2015 have given him a lot of attention, for the good and the bad alike. But this week's PGA Championship is now the third major in a row where Johnson has led after the first round. 

In the last nine rounds of major golf, Dustin Johnson has led five of them.

Johnson missed the PGA Championship last year but at The Open he was T12 and the US Open he was T4.

Since missing the cut at last year's Masters Johnson has put himself in contention at every major he has played though has yet to break through for a win. 

At this year's US Open he led with Henrik Stenson after the first round and was part of a four-way tie for lead after the third.

On the final hole of the tournament, the American is famously remembered for the three-putt that cost him victory. 

At The Open the following month Johnson held the outright lead after both the first and second days. He then plummeted down the leaderboard with a pair of 75s over the last two rounds. 

Despite never leading at The Masters this year, Johnson’s second round 67 put him in the mix and he eventually finished in a tie for sixth behind wire-to-wire winner Jordan Spieth.

The last time he played this well in majors was in 2010, with eerily similar final day results.

At Whistling Straits that year Johnson’s bunker blunder on the 72nd hole cost him a place in the play-off.  

Grounding his club in the sand, Johnson was given a two shot penalty, leaving Bubba Watson to battle it out with eventual winner Martin Kaymer. 

Earlier in 2010, at the US Open at Pebble Beach, Johnson led by three heading into the final round. A score of 82 on an admittedly difficult Sunday gave Graeme McDowell the US Open Trophy.

So, what is it about Dustin Johnson that gets him so close, yet so far? He has innate talent and is a natural athlete, but something, so far, seems to be missing.

It’s unfair to label Johnson a choker in the case of this year’s US Open. If he had holed his first putt on 18, Spieth would likely have been given that tag after he led by three strokes on the 17th tee but dropped two of those with a three putt of his own on the penultimate green.. 

For Johnson, the cases of Pebble Beach and Whistling Straits in 2010 are less forgivable, for different reasons. Lacking a mental edge might be one of the reasons, but it’s an easy suggestion to make from the outside. 

Maybe it’s just that there are so many good players in majors. In golf, you either win or you don’t, the former often involving more chance than the latter. 

"If you're talking a five or six shot lead, I want the lead, for sure," Johnson said after today's round.

"All I'm looking for is a chance to get it done on the back nine on Sunday."

Once again, Johnson leads the field in a major and has yet another chance to join that elite club of golfers to win a Grand Slam title.

The law of averages says that by putting himself in contention so often, he surely has to win one soon.

The danger is that if he doesn't, he won’t be remembered for his talent but the empty spaces in his trophy cabinet that could have been filled by the spoils of a major triumph.

THE WEEK IN GOLF'S FIRST ROUND WRAP:

 

THE 97TH PGA CHAMPIONSHIP FIRST ROUND LEADERBOARD

POSITION PLAYER TO PAR
1 DUSTIN JOHNSON -6
2 DAVID LINGMERTH -5
T3 JASON DAY (AUS) -4
T3 RUSSELL HENLEY -4
T3 HARRIS ENGLISH -4
T3 MATT KUCHAR -4
T3 DANNY LEE -4
T3 MATT JONES (AUS) -4
T3 SCOTT PIERCY -4
T24 JOHN SENDEN (AUS) -1
T71 GEOFF OGILVY (AUS) +2
T71 STEVEN BOWDITCH (AUS) +2
T71 CAMERON SMITH (AUS) +2
T102 ADAM SCOTT (AUS) +4
T107 MARC LEISHMAN (AUS) +7

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