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."

Giants hammer Taillon, return favor with 11-3 win over Pirates

Giants hammer Taillon, return favor with 11-3 win over Pirates

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- Madison Bumgarner allowed one run over five innings for his first win of the season, and the San Francisco Giants beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 11-3 on Tuesday night.

Eduardo Nunez drove in two runs in what appeared to be his final game with San Francisco. The veteran infielder has been the subject of trade rumors and was pulled from the game in the fifth inning. Nunez was later seen on television shaking hands with several teammates in the Giants' clubhouse.

Bumgarner also singled and scored, Buster Posey had three hits and an RBI and Joe Panik added a bases-loaded triple as struggling San Francisco won for only the fifth time in 16 games.

Josh Harrison singled twice for the Pirates, who fell behind 9-0 and couldn't recover. Pittsburgh stranded seven runners in the first five innings, including four in scoring position.

Making his third start since coming off the disabled list after nearly three months following a dirt bike accident in Colorado on April 20, Bumgarner (1-4) was mostly sharp while quieting a potent Pittsburgh lineup and ending the Pirates' seven-game winning streak at AT&T Park.

Giants trade Eduardo Nunez to Red Sox

Giants trade Eduardo Nunez to Red Sox

Eduardo Nunez's time with the Giants is up as they have traded the third baseman to the Boston Red Sox.

The teams announced the trade shortly after the Giants beat the Pirates 11-3 on Tuesday night.

Fox Sports was the first to report the news.

The Giants will acquire minor league pitchers Shaun Anderson and Gregory Santos.

Anderson, Boston's third-round pick out of Florida in 2016, has a 3.42 ERA in 97.1 innings between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem this season.

Santos, a 17-year-old right-handed pitcher, was signed by Boston out of the Dominican Republic in 2015. Pitching in the Dominican Summer League this season, Santos has allowed just three earned runs in 30 innings pitched.

Nunez was lifted for pinch-hitter in the bottom of the fifth inning Tuesday night and was seen hugging teammates as he left the dugout.

In 75 games with the Giants this season, Nunez hit .308/.334/.417 with 21 doubles, four home runs, 29 RBI and 17 stolen bases.

Nunez was acquired from the Twins last summer for two prospects.