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June 24, 2018

Defending champ Johnson powers into contention at Riviera

Defending champ Johnson powers into contention at Riviera
'Dustin Johnson's victory at Riviera in 2017 catapulted him to number one in the world, and he has now maintained the top spot for 52 straight weeks' - By: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP Christian Petersen

A little adjustment was all it took for world number one and defending champion Dustin Johnson to resuscitate his hopes of a title repeat at Riviera Country Club on Saturday.

Johnson was closer to the cut line than the lead when he finished 36 holes at one over par on Friday.

But he powered up the leaderboard with a bogey-free seven-under-par 64, his six-under total of 204 putting him four shots off the lead held by Bubba Watson.

"I'm definitely in shouting distance, that's for sure," said Johnson, who teed off on the 10th and claimed the only birdie of his first nine holes at the par-five 11th.

He rolled in a 12-foot eagle putt at the par-five first, his 10th hole of the day, and added birdies at the third and fourth and sixth and seventh.

It was a far cry from a three-over-par first round marred by a triple-bogey, which Johnson followed with a grinding two-under 69 to make the weekend.

"I made a slight adjustment on the range this morning, I just got a little bit closer to the ball," he said. "I started hitting it more out of the middle of the face, seeing the shape that I wanted to, and I just played really solid all day today."

Johnson said several birdie chances went begging on his opening nine.

"I had some really good looks that just burned the edges," he said. "Even the greens that I missed, they were just right on the fringe and they were fairly close to the hole."

His eagle putt "kind of boosted my round, and from there I wheeled off a few more birdies and shot a really good score."

Johnson's victory at Riviera last year catapulted him to number one in the world, and he has now maintained the top spot for 52 straight weeks -- just the fifth golfer since the rankings were introduced in 1986 to stay on the summit for so long.

With seven top-10 finishes in 10 prior starts at Riviera, he's well aware of what will be required on Sunday.

"I'm still going to have to go out and shoot a really good round," he said. "I just try to shoot as low as I can."

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