Johnson starts strong in home-state Palmetto Championship

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CORRECTS FARAWAY TO FAIRWAY Dustin Johnson watches his drive down the ninth fairway during the first round of the Palmetto Championship golf tournament in Ridgeland, S.C., Thursday, June 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

RIDGELAND, S.C. – Dustin Johnson got off to a fast start Thursday at Congaree in his home-state Palmetto Championship, shooting a 6-under 65 that left him a shot behind leader Wes Roach.

Johnson, the world's top-ranked player and a South Carolina native, hadn't played since missing the cut the last time he teed it up in the Palmetto State at the PGA Championship on Kiawah Island last month.

Johnson appeared he might hold a share of the lead before Roach, a 32-year-old seeking his first PGA Tour victory, rolled in a 19-footer for a go-ahead birdie on the 16th hole.

Still, Johnson had a smooth, bogey-free round in the field's first try at the Congaree Golf Club as the replacement tournament for the canceled RBC Canadian Open, called off a second straight season due to COVID-19 concerns.

Roach, splitting time on the PGA and Korn Ferry tours this season, shot his lowest PGA Tour round since November 2019. He was a stroke in front of Johnson, Doc Redman, Chesson Hadley and South Africa's Erik van Rooyen.

Roach eagled the par-5 fourth, holing out from 105 yards on the 633-yard hole.

“I did everything pretty well," Roach said. "I drove it nice, I putted as good as I have in a while and I made it ... on the fourth hole, so that was a nice bonus as well.”

Johnson was headed in the wrong direction at the Ocean Course three weeks ago, missing a major cut for the second time in as many months. But if anyone doubted his readiness for next week's U.S. Open, Johnson easily brushed that aside with his stellar play over the firm fairways and curvy greens at the 4-year-old Tom Fazio course.