States team player Dustin Johnson hits from a bunker
on the third hole during a practice round ahead of
the Presidents Cup golf tournament at Jack Nicklaus
Golf Club Korea in Incheon, South Korea, Tuesday,
Oct. 6, 2015.
INCHEON, South Korea —
Dustin Johnson hasn't lost a match while playing for the
United States in nearly four years.
Part of that is because
he's very good.
Any discussion about
American talent in golf would have to include the
31-year-old Johnson, who has won in every PGA Tour season
since he was a rookie in 2008 fresh out of Coastal
Carolina. He has chased majors, falling short either by
bad luck (Chambers Bay), a bad shot (Royal St. George's),
bad golf (Pebble Beach) or a bad setup (bunkers at
But there's another reason
that Johnson hasn't lost a match in so long. He hasn't
played a team event since the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah.
Johnson was left off the
Presidents Cup team two years ago when he finished 12th in
the U.S. standings, and captain Fred Couples passed over
Johnson and Jim Furyk in favor of 20-year-old rookie
"I was pretty (upset)
I didn't get picked," Johnson said with a laugh.
"Why you got to bring that up?"
And then last year involved
extenuating, if not mysterious, circumstances. He easily
would have qualified for the team except for taking an
indefinite leave from golf to seek professional help from
what he described only as "personal challenges."
Even so, the record shows
that Charl Schwartzel is the last player to beat him, in
Sunday singles at Royal Melbourne in 2011. Johnson went
3-0 at Medinah the following year, one of only three
Americans to win a singles match in Europe's record-tying
"Even though it's been
a little bit, it didn't feel like it's been that
long," Johnson said. "It's the same guys, kind
of the same team."
Only six American players
are at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea who were on the
last team that included Johnson. Even last year, three
players who had been considered regulars for the Ryder Cup
or Presidents Cup didn't make the team.
Zach Johnson was stunned to
hear that Dustin Johnson hasn't played in these team
events in three years, until he gave it some more thought.
"It's surprising to a
degree," he said. "It's just an illustration of
how deep and how good the PGA Tour is."
Hunter Mahan was in seven
of the last eight team competitions — he only missed
Medinah in 2012 — and wasn't even part of the
conversation this year. Mahan struggled with a growing
family and his game and missed the Tour Championship for
the first time since the FedEx Cup began in 2007. He ended
last year at No. 22 in the world, and now is struggling to
stay in the top 50.
Keegan Bradley made an
auspicious Ryder Cup debut in 2012 with Phil Mickelson,
played on the next two teams and is fading from view.
Bradley hasn't won a tournament since the Bridgestone
Invitational three years ago.
Webb Simpson missed his
first team this year since 2010.
Tiger Woods has been
dealing with his own set of circumstances, mostly injuries
that have kept him out of the game or kept him from
playing the game like he once did. He was last seen in
team uniform at Muirfield Village two years ago with Sammy
the squirrel on his shoulder. Woods missed a big chunk of
2014 recovering from back surgery, and he made the cut
(with only one top 10) in the 11 tournaments he played
It was no less gratifying
for the big-hitting Johnson when he checked in at the team
hotel Sunday night after his long flight from Los Angeles,
stuck his head in the team room to catch up with the rest
of the Americans and then dress in uniform for a practice
round that included Jimmy Walker, Chris Kirk and Patrick
Reed. Those are three guys with whom Johnson has never
played in a team competition.
The turnover isn't that
great from the U.S. team that lost at Gleneagles in the
Ryder Cup with only three new faces — Kirk, Bill Haas
and J.B. Holmes, who replaced Furyk.
Perhaps more changes are
"It's hard to make
these teams," Zach Johnson said. "Saying that
makes it that much more impressive what Phil has
Mickelson has played in
every Presidents Cup since it began in 1994, and he has
qualified for them all except for being a captain's pick
the first year and this year. He has qualified for every
Ryder Cup team since 1995. The last time Mickelson was not
in U.S. uniform, Deane Beman was the PGA Tour
Furyk is not far behind.
This is only the second team event he has missed since
With more young faces in
the pipeline, that kind of longevity will be hard to