Try to make sense of the strange and wild two months of Dustin Johnson on the PGA Tour

NORTON, Mass. – Go ahead and try to figure out Dustin Johnson’s game since golf returned from his three-month dismissal amid the coronavirus pandemic. Honest warning: It may take you a while.

He has won and surprisingly low rounds. He missed cuts and head-scratching blow-up rounds. This week he flirts with history in the second round and, after a strong 7-under 64 on Saturday, enters the final round of The Northern Trust on Sunday with a five-shot lead and a chance at his second win after closing and 22nd of his PGA Tour career.

“Obviously I’m in a great position and like where I am, but I’ll still have to go out and shoot a good score,” he said.

How we are here has not been so easy to follow. Remember: There is a lot to deepen. Another honest warning: try not to make sense – you can not and will not.

There was the Charles Schwab Challenge, when he went out and missed the cut back in the first event. That gives nothing. There would be some calm after the dismissal and some uncertainty given the new world – no fans, new protocols – sports went into again.

“I haven’t practiced much in a while, but my swing, it tends not to be too far away,” Johnson said Saturday. “Sometimes it takes a while to get back on track for a little while.”

He followed up the following week with a solid outing on the RBC Heritage, placing four rounds in the 60s to finish ties for 17th.

A week later, at the Traveler Championships, he shot a career-best 61 in the third round – and that came a day after he was 64 – on his way to his 21st career win on the PGA Tour.

All right, right?

Now …

When he reappeared after a two-week hiatus, he shot follow-up 80s in Muirfield Village to miss the cut at the Memorial.

A blip, right?

Now …

A week later at the 3M Open in Minnesota, he shot 78 in the first round and pulled himself back with a back injury.

That follows an 80-80-78 victory as he heads to a World Cup championship and the PGA Championship, the first major of the year.

Problem ahead, right?

Now …

Johnson placed four laps in the 60s to finish 12th at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, and then almost won the PGA Championship. And it wasn’t that he missed the piece at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco; he went 65-68 at the weekend, only to be overtaken by an epic late run by eventual winner Collin Morikawa to finish second.

That brings us to this week, when the Dustin Johnson thrill ride went for another spin.

After a solid opening round 67 at The Northern Trust, the first event in the playoffs of the FedEx Cup, Johnson put on a show in the second round, one that required regular updates – with exclamation points.

He’s 3 under two holes!

He is 6 down through four holes!

He’s 7 down through five holes!

He’s 9 under eight holes!

He ran to the ninth tee needing one more birdie to shoot 26 – yes, 26 – on the first nine, which would mark the first time in PGA Tour history that a player would have placed 10 down in nine holes. Instead, he arranged for a couple.

Fun is over, right?

Now …

He flies the par-4 10th and rolls in the 11th into another.

He is 11 down through 11 holes!

“Of course I was 11 under 11, it was fun for me,” he said Saturday after I had a day to think about it. “I would think it’s pretty fun to watch, too.”

Suddenly, the buzz was not only that 59 was in play for the second time in one day – Scottie Scheffler became the 11th player in PGA Tour history to place a sub-60 round a few hours earlier – but that Jim Furyk’s record of 58 would perhaps be in jeopardy.

“Of course you start thinking about it, but I tried to play one shot at a time,” he said.

Remember this: Johnson was 11 under through 11 holes. One more bird over the last seven holes and he shoots 59. Two and he shoots 58, which actually would have been better than Furyk’s 58, When he shot the magic number in the 2016 trips, it was on a course that played as a par 70. This week, TPC played Boston as a par 71, meaning a 58 would have been a 13 under compared to Furyk’s 12 under.

Then the exciting ride came to a halt. Johnson finished with seven consecutive passes, including one on the par-5 running hole that has played as the easiest hole all week. (On Saturday, of course, he has maddening 17 and somewhere 18.)

“I wanted to shoot 59,” he said. “I never did it. That would have been nice.”

That, perhaps the first disappointing 60 in the history of golf?

“Every time you shoot a number like that, you’ll never be disappointed,” Johnson said.

The possibility of a letdown – after a great score, after missing history – would hang over his head when he started in the final group next to Scheffler on Saturday afternoon. All Johnson did was fourth four holes, against no bogeys, on the first nine to shoot 32. Another 32 on the back and it all added up to a 7 under 64.

“The FedExCup is something I have not won and I want to win,” he said. “It’s definitely something on my list of goals to achieve. I would love to become a FedEx Cup champion.”

First, he has to close The Northern Trust on Sunday. After all, who knows what’s next?