Five months removed from winning his first green jacket at the 2020 Masters, world No. 1 Dustin Johnson returned to the hallowed grounds of Augusta National on Thursday and turned in a 2-over 74 as he began his championship defense. Johnson snapped a streak of 11 consecutive under-par rounds at Augusta as he heads to Friday five strokes off the clubhouse lead.
The same course that gave way to Johnson’s historic win in November made things far more challenging on him from the onset as he began his quest to repeat. He opened his day with a bogey and finished it with a double bogey to bookend a bumpy afternoon.
“Conditions were very difficult. The course is really firm and fast,” he said on ESPN after the round. “I felt like I played pretty well, though the last hole will leave a little sour taste in my mouth. But all in all, it was a pretty good day. I felt like we hit a lot of really good shots and was rolling the putter nicely.”
In November, Johnson opened his week with a 7-under 65 as he eventually finished with the lowest score to par in the history of the Masters. On Thursday, it was evident the gusty winds and firm greens were going to be much less forgiving. So after turning in four bogeys in all of November in his Masters win, he finished Round 1 with three bogeys and a double on his scorecard.
“The greens are always challenging here but the wind was very difficult,” he added. “It was gusty; it was blowing pretty hard. It was hard to judge.”
There were signs of life from him on the second nine as he rallied with two birdies in his first four holes. The highlight came on the par-4 11th as he holed out from off the green. But after a birdie on No. 13 got him to under par for the first time all day, he closed with a bogey on 16 and a double on 18.
Johnson is looking to join prestigious company in his pursuit of a repeat as only Tiger Woods, Nick Faldo and Jack Nicklaus have gone back-to-back at the Masters. A win this week would also make him the first player on the PGA Tour to win consecutive majors since Jordan Spieth did so in 2015.