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Johnson shaping up as player to beat at Oakmont

Jun 17, 2016; Oakmont, PA, USA; Dustin Johnson hits his tee shot on the 4th hole during the continuation of the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Oakmont Country Club. John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 17, 2016; Oakmont, PA, USA; Dustin Johnson hits his tee shot on the 4th hole during the continuation of the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Oakmont Country Club. John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

OAKMONT, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - The 116th U.S. Open has not yet reached its halfway point after thunderstorms wreaked havoc in the opening round but Dustin Johnson has already emerged as the player to beat.

The American power hitter, seeking redemption for his agonising near-miss at Chambers Bay last year, has played the best golf of the week from tee to green to hold the clubhouse lead after 36 holes.

With the loose-limbed swagger of a gunslinger as he strides confidently down the fairways, Johnson has made the game look remarkably easy on one of the toughest courses in the world, making just one bogey in the first two rounds.

"He played awesome," said Spaniard Sergio Garcia, who has played in Johnson's company at Oakmont. "I also played with him last year the first two rounds (at Chambers Bay).

"He played really, really well today. It's impressive. He drove the ball great, very far. I don't think he missed many fairways at all.

"Out of 36 holes here at Oakmont with only one bogey, it shows you have to play really, really well. He's going to be tough to beat, but I'll give it a shot."

Twelve months after his U.S. Open dream became a nightmare with a three-putt on the final hole as he finished second, a stroke behind Jordan Spieth, Johnson has so far oozed confidence at Oakmont.

Buoyed by top-five finishes in his last two PGA Tour starts, the American world number six was the only player in the field of 156 to go bogey-free in the opening round earlier on Friday as he fired a three-under 67.

After a short turnaround, he then followed up with a one-under 69 that could have been three or four strokes better had he not missed several putts from 10 feet and in.

"I felt like I hit good putts," Johnson said after posting a 36-hole total of four-under 136. "It wasn't like I hit bad putts or, you know, my speed was bad. It's just tough.

"I felt like I left myself in good positions too. Just if you're just a hair off, it doesn't go in. So I felt like I was doing everything correct. I was hitting all my putts where I wanted to.

"They're going to go in eventually, but I made some nice putts too. So, you know, I'm happy with the way everything went today."

Still seeking his first major title after recording 11 top-10s in the blue riband events, Johnson was asked if his three-putt at the final hole at Chambers Bay 12 months ago was weighing on his mind at Oakmont this week.

"What happened last year?" Johnson replied.

(Editing by Andrew Both)

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