Johannesburg - If there is any golfer who overflows with confidence ahead of the US Open, it’s Dustin “DJ” Johnson, who will play for the trophy again after winning it last year.
The year’s second major tees off at Erin Hills golf course in Erin, Wisconsin, on Thursday.
The American, who is ranked number one in the world, won last year’s title at the Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania to claim his first major title in his 29th appearance in the big leagues.
However, his victory was shrouded in controversy as he was given a one-shot penalty after his final round had finished due to an incident on the fifth green.
As DJ prepared to address the ball for a par putt, the ball moved slightly. He stepped away, saying that he had not addressed the ball. After he spoke to an on-site rules official, Johnson was told to carry on with his shot, which he successfully putted.
Good run for money
He ended up winning by three strokes, ahead of Shane Lowry, Scott Piercy and Jim Furyk.
The moving ball sparked an uproar from a wide section of top golfers, who took a swipe at the US Golf Association for the manner in which the matter was handled.
Now Johnson defends his mantle at Erin Hill with the hope of playing a game devoid of conflict.
The 32-year-old will also attempt to become the first player since fellow American Curtis Strange in 1989 to win back-to-back US Open titles.
Johnson Missed the Masters in April due to a back problem, so he will be hoping to make his mark this month.
However, the Erin Hills course is expected to give all the contestants a good run for their money because of its difficult layout.
As usual, there will be stiff competition on the fairways with the participation of top customers such as Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and Australian Jason Day, who are among the favourites to clinch the title.
Many fans will be disappointed as Phil “Lefty” Mickelson, a player who always brings the crowds to the events he participates in, days ago indicated that he was planning to miss his first Open since 1993 because he would be attending his daughter Amanda’s high school graduation, which coincides with the first round on Thursday.
As usual, the expected strong field will be awash with South African golfers (see box) who will want to make a big impression.
Before Jordan Spieth’s 2015 triumph, the event was last won by a non-American golfer – German Martin Kaymer – in 2014, which followed Briton Justin Rose’s triumph in 2013.
It will be interesting to see how the tricks at Erin Hills get surmounted by the group of determined competitors.