Johnson shoots for redemption at Pebble Beach

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Johnson shoots for redemption at Pebble Beach

Feb. 9, 2011GOLF PAGE SCOREBOARD

PEBBLE BEACH (AP) -- Dustin Johnson returns to Pebble Beach with conflicting emotions.

Rare is a defending champion who is looking for redemption.

Johnson has a chance to make history as the first player to win three successive years at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am since this iconic event began in 1937.

Forgotten is how he built a four-shot lead in 2009 and was declared the winner when rain cut the tournament short to 54 holes. Or how he smashed one last drive to set up an easy birdie from the bunker on the final hole last year for a one-shot victory.

No, the lasting image of Johnson at Pebble Beach comes from the U.S. Open last summer.

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He had a three-shot lead going into the final round when he took two chips from the rough -- one of them left-handed -- and took a triple bogey on the second hole. Then came an aggressive play with the driver on No. 3 that he hooked into the bushes for a lost ball. His tee shot on the fourth went into the ocean.

It added to a colossal collapse in his first chance to win a major. Johnson closed with an 82, the highest final round by a 54-hole leader at the U.S. Open in nearly 100 years.

He had yet to get out to Pebble Beach by Wednesday, and planned to play only a couple of holes before sneaking over to Cypress Point. Johnson has moved into the celebrity rotation, meaning he will play Monterey Peninsula on Thursday and Spyglass Hill on Friday before he gets his first crack at Pebble Beach.

Which memories will come back?

"Neither," Johnson said. "I'm just coming out to play the golf course. It's still good, even though the last time I played it I struggled a little bit. But I'm still excited to get back out there and play. I'm always going to love this golf course, no matter what. I'm just ready to get back out and play."

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But then he paused, and offered a slight smile.

"Get a little redemption for the last round of the Open," he said.

Johnson does not lose confidence easily.

Despite a round that would haunt some players, he was right back in the mix two months later at the PGA Championship, poised to win another major until he failed to realize he was in a bunker on a Whistling Straits course that has too many bunkers to count. Instead of getting into a playoff, he wound two shots behind.

Unfazed, Johnson won the BMW Championship a month later to mark himself as a rising star.
That's not to say he hasn't learned from his mistakes, especially at Pebble Beach.

Johnson attributes his U.S. Open blunders to playing and thinking too quickly. He is among the fastest players in the game, and Johnson spent the latter part of last year trying to slow down.

"In the first couple of rounds, I might get a little quick," he said. "I probably need to do it more in the first, second and third rounds than I do in the final round. The final round is when you're thinking and you're more conscious of what's going on. That's when it's most important, when you're under the gun and when you've got a shot to win.

"Slow for me is still pretty fast," he said. "I've got to feel like I'm moving pretty slow, which probably isn't slow."

The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am gets under way Thursday with the usual suspects -- Johnson going for a third straight win, Phil Mickelson trying to find momentum sometime before the Masters, Davis Love III playing for the 25th consecutive year, and Padraig Harrington making his PGA Tour debut.

Harrington was on his way out to Pebble Beach for a practice round when he bumped into Johnson. He stopped to shake hands and pass along a playful message.

"I'm trying to take the trophy off your hands this week," Harrington said.

"Good luck," Johnson said with a delivery that Clint Eastwood could appreciate.

Johnson might not be on top of his game as he was a year ago, when he was coming off a runner-up finish at Riviera. His season began with a couple of top 10s, including an outside chance to win at Torrey Pines.

He made more news for his relationship with LPGA Tour player Natalie Gulbis that surfaced at Kapalua, whatever that relationship was.

Even so, he gets most of his attention on the course.

"We've never had an athlete like that play this tour," Paul Goydos said. "He's the best athlete that I can think of who's playing out here. It's ridiculous to watch this guy work out. He's a tremendous talent who can do things that very few people have ever been able to do."

Johnson nearly had a chance to win as a rookie until he chopped up the 14th hole. He followed that with two victories.

He is not sure why he has such an affinity for Pebble Beach. He just does.

"I'm very comfortable out here," he said. "I think I've got this course figured out pretty well. I tend to play it pretty well. Confidence is huge, especially playing golf. If you're confident you're going to play well on the golf course, most of the time you do."

Cal falls to No. 11 Oregon; Ducks lose Brooks

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USATSI

Cal falls to No. 11 Oregon; Ducks lose Brooks

EUGENE, Ore. — Jordan Bell scored a career-high 26 points, Casey Benson had 15 on five 3-pointers and No. 11 Oregon rolled to an 86-63 victory over California on Thursday night.

The Ducks (17-2, 6-0 Pac-12) matched a 104-year-old school record with their 15th consecutive win, but they lost preseason All-America Dillon Brooks to a lower leg injury late in the first half.

Brooks, who had offseason surgery on his left foot, limped off the court as Oregon was building a 44-30 halftime lead. Oregon officials tweeted that Brooks had injured his lower left leg after he did not appear with his teammates for the second half.

Bell took up the scoring slack by shooting 11 of 12 from the field to go with six rebounds and four blocked shots.

Jabari Bird had 21 points to lead the Golden Bears (13-6, 4-3), who had won three straight and eight of their last 10 meetings with the Ducks.

Source: Bears deny 49ers attempt to bring back Fangio

Source: Bears deny 49ers attempt to bring back Fangio

The 49ers inquired about the possibility of re-hiring defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to presumptive coach Kyle Shanahan's staff, but the Chicago Bears denied permssion, a source told CSNBayArea.com.

Fangio recently completed his second season as the Bears' defensive coordinator after spending four seasons in the same position on Jim Harbaugh's staff with the 49ers.

The Bears made it known to the 49ers that Fangio would not be allowed out of his contract. It never got to the point where the 49ers made a formal request to speak with Fangio, a source said.

Fangio's defenses were the strength of three 49ers teams that advanced to the NFC Championship game, including one Super Bowl appearance. He interviewed for the 49ers' head-coaching job after the 49ers parted ways with Harbaugh. After being passed over for defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, Fangio ended up on John Fox's staff with the Bears.

The Sacramento Bee was first to report the 49ers were blocked in their attempt to lure Fangio back to the organization.