Dustin Johnson made grown men cry.
The soft-spoken, gentle giant of the south turned the emerald valley of Augusta National Golf Club into his own octagon and battered and bruised not only the field of play but all of his 91 foes last November.
In becoming the first player in Masters history to card multiple rounds of 65 or better in the same tournament – his previous career low had been 67 – the world No. 1 tied the 54-hole scoring record of 16 under after three rounds and then went where no man had gone before by reaching 20 under in the final round and finishing there for a five-shot victory, the largest winning margin since Tiger Woods won by 12 in 1997.
Johnson threw haymakers from the beginning of the 84th Masters, made just four bogeys (the fewest of any champion), and hit 60 of 72 greens. When his lead was trimmed to one after two early bogeys in the final round, it spawned fear another major tragedy was at hand. Instead, he knocked an 8-iron from 185 yards to 6 feet for birdie on the sixth, added another red number on No. 8, then scored again at Nos. 13, 14 and 15 to leave his pursuers with nothing to do but weep and wave a white flag.
His master work was so staggering that Cameron Smith lost by five despite becoming the first player in Masters history to shoot all four rounds in the 60s.
“I proved I could get it done on Sunday with the lead at a major, bro,” said Johnson, who previously had been 0-for-4 with at least a share of the 54-hole lead in a major. “There were doubts, for sure. I was proud of that round. After the bogeys, it wasn’t like I was frustrated. It didn’t bother me. Just had to stay patient and take it to the house.”
While others left the grounds to tend to their wounded souls, Johnson headed to the terrace putting green for the abbreviated closing ceremony. There, Woods, the five-time Masters champion, helped Johnson slip on the 42-long green jacket.
And then Johnson lost it.
The indestructible force who pulverized Augusta National broke down during an interview and as hard as he tried to hold back the tears and collect himself, the waterworks flowed and his words ceased.
Dustin Johnson extremely emotional after his Masters victory with @Amanda_Balionis:
"It's hard to talk … I've never had this much trouble gathering myself." pic.twitter.com/YDj83VV0ly
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) November 15, 2020
“The tears came from all the joy, knowing all the work that went into it, the team around me,” Johnson said. “Being the Masters champion in that moment, I was just so happy and proud. And having (fiancé) Paulina (Gretzky) there and my two boys and the family were across the street, and it was just a special moment. I was at a loss for words. I just couldn’t say anything there for a while.
“It’s still kind of a little surreal when I see the jacket and know I’m a Masters champion. All the memories come back.”
It was an understandable outburst of emotion. Growing up across the Georgia-South Carolina border on the outskirts of Columbia, about an hour’s drive from Augusta, the Masters was his Holy Grail. He went to Masters practice rounds with his dad before he turned 10, played the course for the first time in 2008, played in his first Masters in 2009. And long into the nights of his youth, he was making putts to win the Green Jacket.
“The Masters will always be in my heart, with the history and growing up so close,” Johnson said. “It’s pretty cool when a childhood dream comes true.”
There was more behind the tears than a childhood dream fulfilled. Johnson thought of the heartache he endured in squandering victory in five previous majors, some with tragic tones attached. And he was just two months removed from the most recent major disappointment when his one-shot 54-hole advantage in the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco vanished as Collin Morikawa raced by everyone.
Or the time he rolled down Magnolia Lane in 2017 having won his last three starts but was forced to miss the Masters after he slipped and fell and injured his back in his rental home.
He thought of the six-month sabbatical in 2014 he took from the PGA Tour to deal with “personal challenges” and how he worked to overcome them. Since then, he’s won 16 of his 24 PGA Tour titles, including two majors.
Put all that together and Johnson let his guard down on this rare instance and let the world see what only a few of his closest friends and family had seen.
“I was surprised that he cried and lost it,” said younger brother and caddie, Austin. “I’ve seen him get emotional about other things but not golf. But that tournament means so much to him. It humanized him a bit and everyone else got to see that.”
Colt Knost, the 2007 U.S. Amateur champion who played a bunch of amateur golf with Johnson and later roomed with him on the road the first year they turned pro, was moved by Johnson’s victory and post-round interview.
“I started crying when I saw him cry,” Knost said. “He’s got the biggest heart in the world and he’ll do anything for anyone that’s in his circle and those tears show you how much that tournament means to him and how much working his butt off to be the best means to him.”
The Masters masterpiece also came a month after Johnson spent 11 days in quarantine in a Las Vegas hotel after testing positive for the coronavirus. Johnson, as is his nature, dealt with it and moved on without missing a beat.
The Masters capped a 13-tournament, post COVID-19 tour de force to end 2020 in which he won four times, including the Tour Championship that earned him the FedEx Cup, and an 11-stroke romp in the Northern Trust where he shot 60 in the second round and finished at 30 under. He also finished runner-up three times.
The victory solidified his perch atop the world rankings; he’s now spent more time as the world No. 1 than anyone not named Tiger Woods and Greg Norman.
“The way he was playing at the end of 2020 I think is the closest thing to what Tiger Woods was,” said elite swing coach Butch Harmon, who has worked with Johnson since 2009 and was with Woods from 1993 to 2004. “The only difference is Tiger was on for 20 years. When DJ’s on, and he’s firing on all cylinders, and everyone else is on, DJ wins.
“He is the closest thing to Tiger Woods I have ever seen.”
Editor’s note: This begins a seven-part series on the life and career of reigning Masters champion Dustin Johnson. Check back to Golfweek.com each day for the next part of the story.
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/03/29/2020-masters-dustin-johnson-tears-augusta-national-golf-club/