Johnson gets full island experience
Dustin Johnson feels right at home on Maui.
The defending champion of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions will do all things Valley Isle when he arrives to defend his title next month.
“You know, go to the beach, hang out,” Johnson said when asked what he does in Hawaii besides golf. “We jump off the cliffs. There’s a few cliffs or rocks, which is fun. We do some fishing there. I don’t surf in Maui, but I try to surf if I’m over on Oahu. Maybe I’ll try surfing this year (on Maui), I don’t know.”
Johnson won the tournament last year by playing 54 holes in a little over 24 hours after hectic weather forced the event to finish on a Tuesday. He has eight career PGA?Tour victories, including three that went only 54 holes.
The 2014 Hyundai Tournament of Champions runs Jan. 3-6 at the Kapalua Plantation Course, slated for a Monday finish.
“Obviously it was unfortunate we didn’t get to start till late,” Johnson said of last year’s event. “It was definitely probably some of the windiest conditions I’ve played in, but it still turned out to be a great week. The event was shortened a little bit, but for some reason I like those events.
“One of the best memories was riding out to the 18th green in the car.”
Johnson said this event rates above a regular stop on the PGA Tour.
“It’s a special tournament because it’s only winners that get in,” he said. “You have to have won an event to get into it, so I think that makes it special. Being in Hawaii I think makes it special, as well. It’s a special place to go. From the first time I went, I’ve really just enjoyed it, loved it.”
But surfing? Geoff Ogilvy had to pull out of the event as the two-time defending champion in 2011 after cutting his foot on a coral reef here and has not won since.
“The surfing, yeah, that concerns me because I’m not very good,” Johnson said. “I eat it a lot. I don’t surf on the reefs. I like to surf where it’s a sand bottom.”
Johnson’s win here, one of six top-10 finishes on the season, led to a 13th-place showing in the FedEx Cup, his fifth consecutive top-15 finish in the season-long points race.
“I think the Plantation Course fits my game really good,” he said. “I can hit driver pretty much on every hole except for the par-3s. It’s generous off the tee on some holes. On some holes it’s narrow and you have to hit good drives.
“I think it’s fun. You make a lot of birdies. I think it’s just a good course. It’s a fun course to play.”
Johnson’s entry on the pgatour.com website says he already has a victory during the 2014 season – the World Golf Championship HSBC Champions event in Shanghai, China, last month.
His victory here in January was the final time the Hyundai event was the season opener on the tour – the start of the season was shifted to October this year to include events that used to be part of the “Fall Finish” after the Tour Championship.
“I mean, we still kind of consider it the first event of the new year,” Johnson said. “I know with the new schedule it’s not. It fits in the schedule, especially having two events over there (the Sony Open in Hawaii follows at Waialae Country Club). Guys either come over and play both of them, or a lot of guys travel over to just play the Sony.
“I will always play it. I like going to Hawaii. It’s a great place to visit. There is the ocean, all kinds of things to do. It’s a lot of fun. It’s almost like a vacation, too, and you just play a little golf.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com