Dustin Johnson keeps it simple, and dominates heading into Masters


AUGUSTA, Ga. – See ball, hit ball. Listen to question, answer question. Don’t overthink either one.

 This seems to be World No. 1-ranked Dustin Johnson’s approach on the golf course and during interview situations.

 A few examples from Johnson’s Tuesday session in the interview room of Augusta National’s new press building:

 Can the pressure of being the favorite entering the Masters get to some people?

 “I don’t know. It’s the first time I’ve ever been the favorite.”

 Has the drive to win always been there?

 As far as I can remember, I think so.”

 Do you pick Wayne Gretzky’s brain, or does he offer suggestions or advice?

 “Yeah, probably a little bit of both.”

 Can you describe the thought process you go through before a shot?

 “It’s not too much. I get my number and kind of where I want to hit it and try to picture the shot going in.”

Johnson’s clubs do the talking

Johnson’s reputation is that he never says anything interesting, never really reveals anything about himself. But that’s not the point. The point is that Johnson is so physically gifted and so long off the tee and so dominant when his short game is on that it doesn’t matter what he says. But some of his answers are telling. 

There’s nothing too complicated about it. We don’t need to know why Johnson has been so successful because we can see it with our own eyes. He’s won his last three starts and beat Jon Rahm in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play finals without his best stuff. He overpowers courses and now has the short game to boot, a result of focusing on his wedge game for really the first time over the past 14-15 months.

He has three wedges and practices three different shots with each wedge every day. That’s it. The results require no explanation.

“There’s no rocket science behind it. It’s just pretty simple,” Johnson said.

Johnson likes to keep things simple and remove the variables. This has been the case for some time and it’s why he’s here now.

Johnson was asked a good question Tuesday about how a 6-foot-4, 190-pound athletic specimen settles on golf rather than basketball or baseball, for example. He gave a thoughtful, telling answer.

‘You just relied on yourself’

“I made the varsity team in seventh grade, so I got to play varsity golf,” Johnson said. “It was one sport where you didn’t really have to … you just relied on yourself. You didn’t have to count on anyone else. It was just you and the golf course. If you played bad, it was on you. That was just one reason why I really loved the sport and continued to play it.”

Johnson is known for his near-comic lack of emotional displays on the golf course. He celebrates eagle putts with small fist pumps and might grimace ever-so-slightly if he sprays a drive.

How is he able to stay so even-keeled, one might wonder?

“I was taught very young that it’s not the right way to act, and so I just kind of stopped,” Johnson said. “My dad, he didn’t like it. So, I learned very quickly not to do it anymore.” 

Simple.

Johnson’s personal history is more complicated, of course. He admitted to heavy drinking and partying days and issued a statement that he was seeking professional help during a 6-month absence from the PGA Tour in 2014.

Big losses in U.S. Open, PGA, British Open

Asked if he changed as a person during that time, Johnson doesn’t overthink it.

“No, I think I’ve always been good with handling mishaps or losses or anything like that,” Johnson said. “Just something that I’ve always dealt with pretty well.”

Let’s not forget Johnson’s spectacular losses on the course. The final-round 82 in the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. The bunker debacle at the 2010 PGA Championship. The double bogey on No. 14 in the 2011 British Open. The three-putt at Chambers Bay.

Johnson insisted he was fine, mentally, each time, impossible as that seemed, and finally broke through by winning the 2016 U.S. Open. Now he’s the favorite at the Masters, where he finished T-4 a year ago, and says he has a ton of confidence.

Anyone can see that. Maybe we should start listening, too.

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