DJ Looks to Defend at The Barclays


Though the 2011 Barclays was restricted to 54 holes because of the impending threat of Hurricane Irene, Dustin Johnson's victory in the shortened event was not diminished. The lanky, long-hitting South Carolinian put together superb rounds of 66, 63 and 65 at Plainfield Country Club in Edison, N.J., en route to a three-round total of 19-under 194, two strokes ahead of Matt Kuchar.

But the task for Johnson - and the rest of the elite field in the first of four FedEx Cup playoff tournaments - should be much more challenging this year as the $8 million event moves to the more difficult Bethpage Black course in Farmingdale, N.Y.

The daily-fee venue at Bethpage State Park was toughened up before it held the 2002 (won by Tiger Woods) and 2009 U.S. Opens (Lucas Glover) and is still ranked among the most difficult courses in the United States. The layout will be played as a par 71 and extend 7,468 yards for the touring pros.

Johnson knows he'll be facing a whole 'nother animal this year. "It's going to be tough," the 28-year-old said Tuesday. "Obviously I'm glad to be defending champion, and it's at a totally different golf course than it was last year . . . It's going to play tough. The rough is pretty thick, and the fairways are pretty narrow, just like they were in the U.S. Open."

Johnson will be paired in the first round with 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland and Australia's Marc Leishman, who broke through with his first Tour win in the Travelers Championship in June. The trio will start on the first hole at 8:05 a.m. Thursday. (For all the tee times, visit http://www.pgatour.com/tournaments/r027/tee-times.html.)

During his sit-down with reporters two days before the start of The Barclays, Johnson had much more to say about his chances of repeating. Here's what the six-time Tour winner - whose last victory came in June's FedEx St. Jude Classic - had to discuss.

MODERATOR: We want to welcome our defending champion here to the Barclays 2012, Dustin Johnson, six time PGA Tour winner. Despite being off for three months this year, you still came back and won in your second event back at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. You come into the Barclays ranked 26th in the standings. Just talk about the next four events as the FedEx Cup Playoffs begin.

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, it's going to be tough. The Barclays, obviously I'm glad to be defending champion, and it's at a totally different golf course than it was last year. The golf course is in good shape. It's going to play tough. The rough is pretty thick, and the fairways are pretty narrow, just like they were in the U.S. Open. It's going to be a good test of golf. The FedEx Cup, that's what it's all about. You've got to - I've got to have three good weeks if I want to make it to the Tour Championship.

Q. Speaking about the U.S. Open, how do the conditions on specifically the 13th hole on the back nine, the par 5, how do those conditions differ now as opposed to during the '09 Open when it was pretty wet out here?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, I think it'll be good. In the U.S. Open I think they even had more grandstands from what I remember and 17 was - the hole was really loud. It was fun, people up and down both sides and grandstands down both sides. I remember that hole being a lot of fun. But when you're playing up here in New York, it's usually - if you're coming down the last few holes, the fans are out there, and it's pretty loud, and it's a lot of fun.

Q. Does winning two FedEx Cup events help you significantly in winning a third? Do you think that third time is coming this Playoffs?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: I mean, it's hard to say. I play well at this time of the year usually, so I enjoy the FedEx Cup. I like the Playoffs. It's that time of the year where you play well, and then this is time where you really need to play well. I kind of like that. I've had a lot of success the last few years in the Playoffs, and hopefully I can continue that this year.

Q. I just wanted to get your thoughts on yesterday's news out of Augusta.

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, I think it's great. It's good for golf for sure. Augusta does so much for growing the game of golf, and I think this is just another step towards what Augusta is. It's great for them. I think they've caught a lot of heat for it, so I think it's good. It's definitely good for golf. I like it.

Q. This course is long, Crooked Stick is long. How much do you think that will impact the Playoffs this year, maybe give you and Bubba and some of the other long hitters an advantage do you think?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: I mean, this golf course, the longer hitters have a little bit of an advantage, but you've still got to hit it in the fairway. If we drive it in the rough, it's still tough to get it to the green on some of the longer holes. It's whoever is going to drive it the straightest and the furthest is who's going to win. The rough is very penal. But you definitely have an advantage being a longer hitter, that's for sure.

Q. Can you explain from your perspective how important are the Playoffs, because you're right in between a major and the Ryder Cup? It's something that's kind of brought out the best in you. How do you get up for it and why do you get up for it?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, FedEx raises a lot of money for the Playoffs, so the - it's hard not to get up for them. I'm always excited, especially you want to make it to the Tour Championship and obviously win the FedEx Cup. That's a nice check in the pocket. So that's how I get up for it. You know, it's great, and I don't know how you couldn't when you're playing for that kind of cheese.

Q. How chaotic was last year at Plainfield for you guys, both on the course, and I remember you even kind of jumped in your rental car with your girlfriend and sped out. How chaotic was it getting out of town?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, NetJets, I was flying home with, I think, Rickie and Camilo, it was like six of us, and they had - they grounded all their planes. But since I was in the last group and I ended up winning, they actually - they extended their ground a little bit longer so I could get out of there. So it was pretty chaotic. I went straight as soon as I did the closing ceremonies on the green, I jumped in the car straight to the airport to get home. I mean, it was really nice because we got home Saturday afternoon and the weather was great down in Florida, and I got to spend four days at home before I went up to Boston, so that was really nice.

Q. So you're not concerned that you might not get out of town?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, for sure. We were cutting it close. NetJets, they didn't want to let us leave, but they did, just because the conditions didn't get bad until a little bit later. It didn't come in quite as fast as they thought, but it was getting pretty iffy when we were about to take off.

Q. When a guy wins a tournament and then when he gets on a plane, is he expected to pay their share?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: I think I took care of it.

Q. What do you have to do to get picked for the Ryder Cup?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: I think I just need to have a solid next few weeks. If I play well the next two weeks, I would hope that I'd definitely be in consideration. But I think I've had a good year other than I didn't play for three months. But hopefully the captain knows that, and he'll make the right decision.

Q. In your mind how many spots are open? Do you think some are already taken?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: No, I don't think so. I think there's four spots open. I mean, I don't see how people have already made it. I think he's going to make his decision. Obviously he's got guys in mind who he thinks he's going to pick, but that could change in the next couple weeks. You know, he probably already has the guys he's going to pick, I would say, and these next couple weeks probably could change his mind. But most of the guys have played well all week, and I've played pretty solid all year long, and I think I'd be a great asset to the team, and hopefully I'll get picked.

Q. Given the time off that you did have, do you feel fresher now than maybe at previous times?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: No. I mean, for me it doesn't - no. I feel the same as I always do this time of year. I'm ready to play golf. I might have been fresher going into like those two weeks, Memorial and Memphis and U.S. Open, but that was just because I had three months off or whatever, two and a half months, where I - you know, I was ready to play golf. You get bored sitting at home, believe me. It is boring.

Q. Bubba was in here talking about the greens. He said if they get firmer they could get tough. How do you think the greens are rolling out there? Are they rolling to your liking?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, the greens are rolling great. They're at a good speed. They are a little soft, but like he said, it's very playable. The fairways are soft. The ball is not - if the ball lands in the fairway, it's staying in the fairway. You know, that's good, especially for me. I like when the ball stays in the fairway.

MODERATOR: Best of luck to you this week. Thanks for coming in.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.


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