Dustin Johnson, the winner of the 2020 FedEx Cup, started his round at the 2021 Northern Trust on Thursday without having a driver in his bag.
No, Johnson wasn’t removing a page from Phil Mickelson’s playbook of the 2008 US Open when the southpaw decided to take on the south course of Torrey Pine unmanned. As Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis reported, Johnson noticed a small crack in his TaylorMade SIM2 driver shortly before his scheduled tee time at 12:44 p.m. ET. As Johnson had not started playing, he was free to replace the club, but as Johnson traveled with a back-up driver, he was not retained at Liberty National Golf Club.
“Throwed me for a loop there because it was literally ten minutes before I left when it happened,” Johnson said after shooting a 1-under 70. “I managed to do a decent lap in there.”
So instead of using a driver, Johnson added another fairway wood to the Northern Trust’s first round. The 2016 US Open and 2020 Masters champion typically wears a SIM2 Max 3 blade with 16.5 degrees of loft. According to TaylorMade, on Thursday he used a pair of SIM2 Max fairway woods, one with 14.5 degrees of loft and the other with 18 degrees of loft.
“It was really long,” Johnson said after his lap. “I was worried if I could cover the water or not on 7. Then I hit it to the right because I was trying to keep it low and make sure it didn’t rise in the air because it was a long range.
“Other than that hole, other than just maybe having one or two more clubs on the greens, but the greens are soft. So it wasn’t too bad. But if the wind direction today, it’s not wasn’t so bad.
Why not get a driver on the TaylorMade PGA Tour Truck? Vans and trucks that provide equipment services to players departed Liberty National on Wednesday after lunch, which is customary, and began heading south to Cave’s Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Maryland, on next week’s BMW Championship site.
Most PGA Tour players bring the 14 clubs they play for tournaments, along with a backup driver, backup putter and often a hybrid club, driving iron and intentionally a wedge of sand with a setup of rebound differently from their normal wedge in case the sand conditions are firmer or softer than normal.
Johnson finished the PGA Tour regular season ranked 20th in hits off the tee (.452) and 17th in FedEx Cup points. After signing for his 70 on Thursday night, Johnson went to the range and began practicing with a SIM2 driver acquired to him while on the course.