MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Dustin Johnson has not played a tournament since the Tour Championship in August while recovering from major knee surgery but has no fear of being thrown in the deep end at the Presidents Cup this week.
Johnson will team up with Gary Woodland in the opening fourball matches against Abraham Ancer and Louis Oosthuizen on Thursday, with United States captain Tiger Woods pressing him straight into service rather than giving him an extra rest day.
All of the U.S. players except Johnson competed at Woods’ charity event, the Hero World Challenge, in the Bahamas earlier this month, raising fears Johnson might be the team’s second injury withdrawal after world number one Brooks Koepka was a late pull-out.
But former world number one Johnson said the Bahamas break had done him wonders.
“I was close to ready, I just didn’t feel like I was 100 percent. I just wanted that extra week to be ready for this. I felt like the extra 10 days was a big help,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
“There was no issue with my knee. Everything has gone very well. So it was just something I needed to work through. Even though there wasn’t any pain, it didn’t hurt.”
Johnson had a rusty practice at Royal Melbourne on Tuesday but was dialled in nicely during his round on Wednesday, according to playing partner Woodland.
“DJ looks great,” Woodland told reporters.
“Not many people outside of Tiger Woods can take that kind of break off and come back and look pretty good.
“Yesterday you could maybe say he was a little rusty early in the round, made some birdies late. Today he played great. I expect him to be playing quite a bit this week.”
Even if not fully fit, Johnson’s outstanding record of eight wins, four losses and two halved matches at his three previous Presidents Cups might make him worth the gamble.
He said he had not asked Woods to play him as much as possible at Royal Melbourne this week but he would not hesitate if the skipper demanded it.
“I’ll play as many as Tiger wants me to play. I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t ready to play,” he said.
(Editing by Himani Sarkar)
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