Johnson takes charge as Tournament of Champions finally begins

Story highlights

  • Dustin Johnson leads the PGA Tour's Tournament of Champions in Hawaii
  • Play was abandoned on Friday, Saturday and Sunday due to strong winds
  • Johnson leads on 11-under after the field played 36 holes on Monday
  • Steve Stricker, Bubba Watson and Keegan Bradley all in the chasing pack

A wind of change blew through Hawaii Monday and thankfully it was gentle enough to allow the PGA's Tournament of Champions to finally get under way.

For three days in a row the 30-strong field, all of whom won a PGA Tour event in 2012, had to sit idly by as play was canceled due to strong winds and driving rain.

It led to the bizarre sight of Rickie Fowler officially starting the new campaign three times, after his first two attempts were derailed by the weather.

But once the action began Dustin Johnson's detailed preparation for the competition showed, as his six practice rounds prior to teeing off in Maui helped him shoot rounds of 69 and 66 to lead on 11-under-par.

Read: PGA Tour season opener ruined by winds

The U.S. Ryder Cup star leads by three shots from fellow countryman Steve Stricker, with 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson a further shot back.

Johnson now has a further 18 holes on Tuesday to retain his lead and take the first title of 2013. "I hit the ball really well this afternoon," he told the PGA Tour's official website.

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"This course is a tough walk and it's really windy out there, but I'm in pretty good shape. I can handle it. I didn't really have an off season; I had a few weeks off but I needed a practice so that why I came out here early and get back into it.

"I've got new irons and a new driver now so I'm pretty pleased with my equipment and I'm pretty pleased with my game right now."

Johnson can feel confident going into the final day given he has triumphed in the last two PGA Tour events that have been shortened to 54 holes.

He added: "I've still got 18 more holes of golf. It wouldn't matter if it was 72 holes or 54. (Tuesday) is still the last round and there's 18 holes to play, so got to get the job done."

Monday's action was very nearly over almost before it began as two golf balls moved on the green due to strong gusts but the wind subsided and play continued the rest of the day.

Johnson missed just three greens in regulation during his double round and he carded only three bogeys in 36 holes.

Johnson's nearest challenger is Stricker despite the veteran struggling with pain in his lower back. The 45-year-old carded rounds of 71 and 67 to give him hope going into the final round.

Read: Golf star Beljan: I thought I was going to die

"Nobody knows if it's a muscle with pressure on the sciatic nerve or if there's a problem with a disk," Stricker said ot the discomfort he felt during his long day.

"My back feels great. I don't feel tight. I don't feel stiff. Just every time I get over to my left side, I'm getting a shooting pain down my leg. I'm not hitting it full strength and I'm just trying to keep it in front of me and play the smart shots."

Watson, who will defend his Masters title when the first major championship of 2013 gets underway in April, is on seven-under, four off the lead, but says Johnson is in top form going into the last day.

"The way he's playing, the way he's striking it, the way he's controlling his golf ball, it's pretty good right now," he said of his Monday playing partner. "And I don't see any different (on Tuesday) from him."

Watson is one shot ahead of 2011 U.S. PGA Champion Keegan Bradley. He is tied on six-under with 2012 FedEx Cup winner Brandt Snedeker.