Remaining calm on golf’s biggest stages has been one of Dustin Johnson’s greatest strengths.
However, after winning his first Masters and slipping on that distinctive Green Jacket, it all proved to be too much for the 36-year-old as he fought back tears in his post-victory interview.
Four years on from his first major victory, Johnson is having a 2020 to remember. A maiden win at Augusta, his first Tour Championship title, two further PGA Tour victories and a return to the world No. 1 spot.
And after claiming that elusive second major victory in such an emphatic manner, posting a record score of 20 under par to win by five strokes, Johnson isn’t planning to “dial anything back.”
“I want to get to number three first, but I do dream of winning a lot of majors,” Johnson said in his press conference afterwards.
“Just hadn’t quite happened yet. Hopefully this one will help give me a little spring. I feel really good about everything that I’m doing. I feel really confident in the golf game.
“My goal is to play for about eight, nine, maybe 10 years, and then hang out with my kids and Paulina (Gretzky).”
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‘It means so much to me’
Johnson’s propensity to keep a tight hold of his emotions means he’s one of the coolest players on the course. Even some of his competitors have noted the methodical way he approaches golf.
“See ball, hit ball, see putt, hole putt, go to the next,” Rory McIlroy explained after his round on Friday. “He makes the game so simple, or makes it look so simple at times for sure.”
But wearing the Green Jacket that many of the game’s greats have worn, standing on the 18th green with his partner Paulina and brother Austin – also his caddy – watching on, got to the usually unflappable Johnson.
“I’ve never had this much trouble gathering myself,” he said. “On the golf course I’m pretty good at it. Out here I’m not. I can’t even talk.
“Just because it means so much to me. It means so much to my family, Paulina, the kids. They know it’s something that I’ve always been dreaming about and it’s why I work so hard.”
A local boy
Growing up in South Carolina, winning at the Masters has long been a dream for Johnson.
“Just growing up so close to here, it’s always been a tournament that since I’ve been on Tour, since I played my first Masters, it’s been the tournament I wanted to win the most,” Johnson explained.
“Being close the last couple years, finishing second last year to Tiger, this one was just something that I really wanted to do.”
When he was discovering his love for the game as a child, pretending that he was putting to win the Masters was a common occurrence.
“Always around the putting green growing up, it was putts to win the Masters or hitting chip shots,” he said. “It was always to win Augusta. Especially because I grew up so close to here, about an hour, hour and 10 minutes away.”
And to have five-time Masters winner Woods help him into his Green Jacket made it just that bit sweeter.
“Obviously having Tiger put it on was awesome and unbelievable and you wouldn’t want it any other way.”
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While his competitors were being tipped to succeed at a Masters unusually held in November and without spectators because of the coronavirus pandemic, Johnson started the tournament relatively under the radar.
Golf’s most recent major champion Bryson DeChambeau was drawing headlines, while the possibility of 2019 champion Tiger Woods equaling Jack Nicklaus’ all-time major record was some fans’ preferred ending to 2020’s competition. Some big-name Europeans – Jon Rahm and Justin Rose, for example – were also being touted.
But, after a slow start, golf’s highest-ranked player, perhaps unsurprisingly, found his way to the top of the leaderboard.
Despite holding a five-shot lead as he made his way down the 18th fairway, with no patrons to let him know where he was positioned on the leaderboard and having deliberately avoided looking at the leaderboard since the 7th hole, Johnson admitted he was uncertain of the extent of his advantage.
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“I assumed I had the lead, but I didn’t know by how many,” he said.
“I kind of looked at the leaderboard a little bit early, and after that I just told myself: ‘Don’t worry about what anybody else is doing, just play as good as you can.’”