Dustin Johnson may have made a more successful comeback from his recent lengthy injury-related layoff than Rory McIlroy did in knocking the rust off his game from his globe-trotting hiatuses. If history is any indication, however, the defending U.S. Open champ is more likely to win this week’s major tilt than D.J. is to cadge his inaugural major title.
Since 1895, only six players have captured back-to-back titles in this country’s national championship, while a win at Olympic Club on Sunday would put Johnson in rarefied air as the first golfer to hoist an Open trophy the week after winning a PGA Tour event. A victory would be especially invigorating for Johnson, who posted a one-stroke triumph over John Merrick and bettered a fading McIlroy by three shots at last week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic just two weeks after returning from a back injury that stopped him from swinging a club for six weeks.
Johnson, by the way, became the first player since Tiger Woods (who has never won consecutive U.S. Opens despite having three career wins at the event) to earn a win in each of his first five years as a PGA Tour professional. Woods, for his part, is one of 10 players to win a major other than the Open after a tour victory the previous week (*golf clap if you can name the tourney and the year he won it prior to grabbing a non-U.S. Open major -- answer below).
As for McIlroy, a win in San Francisco would make him the first golfer since Curtis Strange in 1988 and 1989 to go back-to-back in U.S. Opens, and would put him in the same sentence with such icons as Ben Hogan (1950, 1951) and Bobby Jones (1929, 1930). Willie Anderson is the only golfer to go back-to-back-to-back, when he took the Open titles in 1903, 1904 and 1905.
* Answer: Woods won the 2007 Bridgestone Invitational the week before lifting the PGA Championship hardware.