Iron play gives Dustin Johnson a lift

05/22/2014 8:37 PM

11/12/2014 5:35 PM

Dustin Johnson is best known for his long drives and his fiancée, Paulina Gretzky, daughter of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.

But he showed off his all-around golf game Thursday afternoon.

Johnson, leaving his driver in the bag most of the day, fired a 5-under 65 in the opening round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and is the leader in the clubhouse by a stroke.

Johnson, who tees off at 7:44 a.m. Friday, had little trouble designing a suitable game plan for what is known as a shotmaker’s course. But when did he come up with such a solid game plan, considering his last — and only — appearance at Colonial came in 2008?

“Yesterday,” Johnson said with a chuckle. “It was my practice round yesterday, so that was my game plan.”

The game plan called for Johnson to hit mostly 3-iron off the tee to keep it on the fairways. He estimated he used his driver maybe three or four times and his 3-wood once.

But Johnson’s length with his irons is just as impressive as his driver. He can hit his 3-iron 280-plus yards, leaving him in good shape for his approach shots.

As he said, “I’m hitting 3-iron off just about every tee and still have wedge to 8-iron is about the longest I had into a par 4.

“You know, that makes things pretty easy … as long as I’m hitting my 3-iron straight.”

Look no further than how he approached the 481-yard, par-4 fifth.

Johnson smacked his 3-iron 282 yards into the intermediate rough, leaving him 191 yards to the green. He got it to within 45 feet and drained the lengthy putt for his second birdie of the day.

Johnson birdied two more holes on the front nine. He rolled in a 20-footer on the eighth and made a 21-footer on the ninth.

Johnson had one more birdie on the back nine, knocking it to within 2 feet on the par-3 16th. He had no bogeys on the day and hit 16 of 18 greens.

“Just a really solid day,” Johnson said. “I just want to get in the fairways. I hit my irons pretty well and I seemed to hit it close a lot. So when I’m hitting out of the fairway, I’m going to be tough.”

Johnson hit nine of 14 fairways and only missed the greens on Nos. 4 and 18. But he chipped to within 6 feet and made par on the fourth. He closed his round with a nice sand save on the 18th, sinking a 12-foot par putt.

“I’ve got to keep doing what I’m doing,” Johnson said. “I’ve got a pretty good game plan for the golf course off the tee, so I’m going to stick to that. Just trying to keep getting birdie looks on every hole.”

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