On the second hole on Friday, Dustin Johnson pulled his drive into the fairway bunker. He tried to muscle his second up over the lip, but was unable to clear all the rough left of the fairway. He found the barranca with his third after trying a shot out of a buried lie. After a drop, his fifth went long of the green, ultimately leading to a quadruple-bogey eight. Somehow, he fought his way back to an even-par round, but his tournament was undoubtedly changed by his decisions on No. 2.
While many will look at Johnson’s third shot as his biggest mistake on the hole, it was really his second shot, the one out of the fairway bunker, that led to the big number. Instead of safely playing out to the right to ensure a good shot for his third, DJ tried to force his way down the fairway and brought the deep bermuda rough into play. You could then argue that he made another mental mistake from the rough when he tried to hit the green instead of just getting his ball back in play.
It’s situations like these that make championship golf special, situations where mental execution matters just as much as physical execution. We all know these guys are some of the best athletes on the planet and can do things with a golf ball that most of us can only dream about. But the best tournaments are the ones that separate players with a combination of brains and brawn. Hopefully that’s exactly what will play out as LACC continues to firm up this weekend.
This piece originally appeared in The Fried Egg newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.