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Dustin Johnson relishing role of favourite at Royal Troon

Dustin Johnson: Chasing a hat-trick of victories at Royal Troon.
Dustin Johnson: Chasing a hat-trick of victories at Royal Troon.

After being the nearly man of golf for so long, the confidence was oozing out of Dustin Johnson yesterday as he talked up his chances of a second major win at Royal Troon.

The 145th Open championship begins at the illustrious South Ayrshire links this morning and few would be overly surprised if Johnson is the man topping the leaderboard on Sunday evening.

The 32-year-old American has tasted victory on his last two outings after scooping the US Open at Oakmont and the WGC – Bridgestone Invitational ahead of the third major of the season beginning today.

The recent wet weather at Royal Troon has softened and lengthened the course – which could play into the hands of the powerful American, who tees off at 2.04pm – playing in the same group as Germany’s Martin Kaymer and Inverness golfer Russell Knox.

The closest Johnson has come to winning the Claret Jug was when he finished second to Darren Clarke at Royal St George’s five years ago.

But, after winning his first major last month, Johnson looks like a man capable of adding a few more to his collection.

He said: “Now that I am a major champion, it’s a good feeling, for sure.

“The mindset is different because I’m not trying to win the first one.

“I already have. So on Sunday if I’m in contention, knowing that I can get it done is a big confidence booster coming down the stretch.

“I’m still going to have to play some really good golf to win this weekend but the game is in good form and I’ve got a lot of confidence so we’ll see what happens.

“But the plan is to win more and I feel like if I keep playing like I am then I will win a few more.”

Johnson, who said he would consider playing next year’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Dundonald Links, spent last week in Ireland warming up for Royal Troon.

He said: “I try to come over every year a little bit early. I usually go to Dublin and hang out and play.

“I played Portmarnock probably six or seven times, and played the Island Golf Club twice. They’re both great courses and I think it’s definitely good preparation coming here.”

Johnson, who averages 312.5 yards in the driving statistics for the 2016 season, says he doesn’t intend to change his aggressive approach at Royal Troon, especially over the opening stretch of holes which begin with three short par-4s all measuring under 400 yards.

He said: “I can drive it right next to the green on the first and I can get it to the third if it is downwind.

“On the second there are three bunkers 40 yards short of the green so I just try to keep it just short of them with either a driver or 3-wood depending on the wind.

“The bunkers defend the links courses so it’s all about navigating them.

“The rough isn’t that bad and in many spots it is very playable so if you can stay out of the bunkers this week I think you’re going to do pretty well.”

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