Dustin Johnson finally fulfills his potential

dustin johnson
USA Today Sports Images
Dustin Johnson is going to need a bigger trophy room if he keeps reeling off wins the way he has in recent weeks.
By
Marla Ridenour
The Akron Beacon Journal

Series: PGA

Published: Sunday, July 03, 2016 | 9:00 a.m.

Dustin Johnson's new home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., is still under construction, but its design may already have a fatal flaw.

The trophy room may not be big enough.

"I don't know, hopefully I've got to make it bigger," Johnson said.

After years of teasing observers with his talent but failing to deliver in the world's biggest events, Johnson might as well be under some kind of magic spell that even he can't comprehend.

Not that the laid-back South Carolina native would even try.

All he knows is he followed up his first major victory in the U.S. Open two weeks ago with a come-from-behind triumph Sunday in the $9.5 million World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.

The $1.62 million he earned at Firestone Country Club after his final-round 66 beat Scott Piercy by a stroke should be enough to knock down a few walls and expand his golf room/locker room, if Johnson sees fit. Right now his trophies, save for the 8 1/2-pound sterling silver cup he received on June 19 at Oakmont Country Club, are in boxes. That coveted reward for his first major is on display at his rental house.

The Gary Player Cup that Johnson hoisted Sunday was more validation of how he's turned his game and his life around after spending six months away to address "personal challenges" two years ago.

It proved that the post-U.S. Open proclamation of his fiancee Paulina Gretzky, daughter of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, might have been right on target.

"This is just the beginning," Paulina Gretzky told Golfweek.

Moving up to No. 2 in the world with Sunday's victory, Johnson will get more chances to prove that this month. The British Open is July 14-17 at Royal Troon, with the PGA Championship at Baltusrol two weeks later.

As he left the 12th green, Johnson was 3 shots behind Day, the world's No. 1 player. Had there been a Twitter poll on whether Day or Johnson would prove tougher down the stretch, not many would have chosen Johnson.

That may change now.

Johnson, 32, won consecutive tournaments he entered for the first time in his career. He ran his total to 11 PGA Tour victories, including three different WGC events. The only other player to accomplish the latter is Tiger Woods.

He won at Firestone, where his record was lackluster in six previous appearances. His best finish before Sunday was 15th in 2010; a year ago he tied for 53rd.

He's doing it with a newfound calm, a calm that he said was "not even close" to how he felt on the back nine at the U.S. Open.

"Today I felt I was in a really good place, really calm, collected, just focusing on what I was doing," Johnson said.

There has always been a touch of the unconventional with Johnson. At the Memorial Tournament in 2015, he confessed that he'd discovered the problem with his swing when he saw a commercial he'd made for the TaylorMade AeroBurner driver on television in the locker room.

"I noticed something in my setup. Posture was a little off, I was getting a little too heel-y," he said. He went to the driving range, stood more on the balls of his feet, and saw immediate improvement. He tied for 13th that week and, two weeks later, tied for second at the U.S. Open.

Late last season brought a more drastic change. After drawing his tee shots since joining the tour in 2007, he decided a fade would enable him to hit more fairways. He knows the statistics don't reflect it _ he ranked 142nd on the tour in driving accuracy (56.8 percent) after the Bridgestone _ but tied for fourth in the Firestone field at 57.1 percent while finishing second in driving distance.

"I just don't feel like my misses are as bad," Johnson said.

There were so many misses before, including four heart-wrenching majors before he finally came through. Now with two big victories in a row, his peers may be starting to realize that Johnson has found the inner strength to go with his game and his potential.

"We all know how good DJ is and he's shown it the last two weeks," Piercy said.

Johnson, though, seemed almost underwhelmed. He shot back-to-back 66s on a course that played unusually firm, where his competitors struggled to hit the fairway and couldn't get a birdie run going with their putters. Yet he remained his usual what-will-be-will-be self.

"It wasn't like awesome, but it was pretty solid," he said of his performance.

The new trophy room, getting more crowded by the week, says otherwise.

 

This article was written by By Marla Ridenour from The Akron Beacon Journal and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.