Prior to his dubious 2014 leave of absence, Dustin Johnson was one of the Tour’s best golfers. One of the best, but not the best. And while he hadn’t won a major championship, he had won at least once in every season since joining the Tour: A Woodsian feat.
The popular narrative is that, in his time away from competition, DJ dedicated himself to practice and preparation under the watchful eye of his father-in-law-to-be, Wayne Gretzky, and came back a better man and golfer.
It’s not a storyline the world No. 1 has discussed at great length, however. But fortunately, he spoke candidly with CNN’s Living Golf about his evolution.
Johnson said he was “fed up with being good,” and decided he wanted to be the best golfer in the world, finally expressing a desire to capitalize on his considerable natural talents. Years of his team around him trying to get his ass in gear didn’t have one-tenth of the effect of the decision from DJ himself.
“I can have someone tell me to do stuff all the time every day and if I don’t want to do it, I ain’t gonna do it. It’s got to come from me. Obviously people give me advice and what I should do, but I’m only going to do what I think I want to do. So, it was just time.”
Indeed. Johnson had famously let the 2010 U.S. Open and the 2010 PGA Championship slip through his fingers. Ditto the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.
Bouncing back after his July 2014 LOA, the result of a trio of failed drug tests or something else, depending on who you believe, DJ won the 2016 U.S. Open and has won an addition six tournaments since that dark period.
Interestingly, the swaggering, eternally laid back Johnson describes himself as “very, very competitive.”
He also added. “Unless you know me there’s definitely a lot more than meets the eye.” Not sure if he’s referring to his love of performing in Paulina Gretzky’s impromptu music videos or something else.
Anyway, he said the thing champion athletes say, and what we always hoped we hear from the guy who, let’s just say, enjoyed his leisure-time activities.
“I enjoy being there on Sundays in the hunt, trying to win golf tournaments. That’s why I work so hard in the gym, why I work so hard on my game.”
Work hard (on the right things), enjoy the pulse-quickening pressure of being in the hunt, and try your damnedest to win. If you’re a golf fan, you have to be happy this is finally Dustin Johnson’s mindset. Anything less robs the game.