(Editor’s note: This is the final piece of a seven-part series on the life and career of reigning Masters champion Dustin Johnson.)
Given his enormous physical gifts, Dustin Johnson could shun the weight room and practice ground and likely still make do against the best pro golfers in the world.
Especially since one of his favorite hobbies is to kick back and float down a waterway. But when it comes to his occupation, the reigning Masters champion and world No. 1 eventually learned work isn’t a four-letter word.
“Dustin is freakishly athletic,” said David Winkle, Johnson’s agent his entire professional career. “I think it was a little bit of a curse early in his career that he was so athletic that he probably gets three or four hours of benefit out of an hour’s work of time.
“He became an extremely hard worker about four or five years ago and took his focus and his dedication to a new level. That’s when he made the leap from being a top-10 player in the world to being the best player in the world.”
About a decade ago, Johnson met uber trainer Joey Diovisalvi – Joey D as he’s better known – and gradually increased his workload in the weight room and on the practice range. Now he’s a beast in the gym and a machine on the range.
“He’s just big and strong with athleticism oozing from every angle,” Diovisalvi said. “I’ve been with him everywhere and the perception doesn’t match the reality.
He works as hard on the driving range as he does in the gym and he works as hard as he can. He puts in hours out there and sometimes too much.
“His work ethic is off the charts even though his talent is off the charts.”
Johnson discovered there are a lot more fruits that come with the labor and despite reaching the summit of golf – world No. 1, two-time major winner, FedEx Cup captain, future inductee into the World Golf Hall of Fame, reigning Masters champion – he isn’t about to put his feet up and lighten up.
“Having the success I’ve had, the feeling I get when I win, especially a major, all those things make my family proud and drive me to continue to work hard and continue to try and be the best I can,” Johnson said. “And I like being the best.”
Getting there included two pivotal discoveries.
The first took a few years to come to fruition. When Johnson started working with Butch Harmon in 2009, the coach quickly preached that Johnson should master the fade. Up until then, Johnson relied on a draw that much of the time he couldn’t control. As Lee Trevino said, you can talk to a fade but a hook won’t listen.
“We would work on it every practice session but he wouldn’t put it in play in a tournament. He just didn’t have the confidence. Try as I did, it took a while to catch on,” said Harmon, whose son, Claude, regularly works with Johnson while the elder Harmon stays in touch from afar. “And then one day he called me and he said, ‘Hey, Butchy, I was just playing today and I decided I was going to hit fades off every tee and man I drove it good. I think I’m going to play that way.’
“And I just laughed and said, ‘Yep, that’s a good idea.’”
That was in 2015 when Johnson was testing equipment
“It wasn’t like I couldn’t hit a cut,” Johnson said. “But if I had to cut one around a tree or something like that, it took me a while to trust it. Then when I was testing equipment, I hit a couple of cuts on the range and it felt really good. So the next three days I played and hit nothing but cuts.
“That was all she wrote.”
A few months later, another foundational moment occurred. At the 2016 Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club north of Los Angeles, Johnson won the morning wave of the pro-am with Janet Gretzky and Tristan Gretzky, his fiancée’s mother and younger brother.
Instead of celebrating, Johnson went to the range. There he hooked up with reps from TrackMan, a launch monitor that provides precise analytics concerning what a golf ball does after being hit.
At the time, Johnson was a middling wedge player. More harshly, it was a weakness, especially when he lived in the 50- to 150-yard range.
“He was leaving so many shots out there,” Winkle said. “If he could become even a medium-range wedge player, game over. He spent hours that day and then turned to me and said, ‘Wink, order me one of these.’”
It came in the mail three weeks later, and Johnson quickly developed a system where he’d spend hours working on half-, three-quarter and full shots with his wedges. Now he’s one of the best wedge players in the game.
“I knew I had to really work on my wedge game,” Johnson said. “Now I’m never surprised with whatever number I have to the green. I probably practice like 80 percent of my time on wedges.
“It took me a long time but as you get older, you figure out some things.”
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/04/04/2020-masters-dustin-johnson-hard-worker/