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The world-renowned golf coach Butch Harmon helped both Greg Norman and Tiger Woods reach the top of the Official World Golf Rankings, where the two players have spent almost 20 years combined as World No 1.
So his opinion should not be taking lightly when describing his current star student , Dustin Johnson, who became World No 1 after a dominant win last week at the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club.
“Dustin is the one player out there that I believe will be able to hold No 1 for a long time,” Harmon said. “He has so much confidence in all parts of his game and also is happy with his life.
“I told him he’s starting to remind me of Tiger in the old days. He hits it as far as anyone, he puts it in the fairway better. His short game is better, and he’s starting to be that guy that, when he’s on, he’s almost impossible to beat.”
Johnson has dedicated himself to golf and matured greatly since the birth of his first son Tatum in 2015, and with another kid on the way with his fiancée Paulina Gretzky, he is in a happy place in his life.
It is easy to forget now where he came from only two and a half years earlier, when Johnson was forced to take a six month break from the game.
– #1 golfer in the world
– PGA Tour Player of the Year
– A win 10 seasons in a row.
It must be alright being Dustin Johnson. pic.twitter.com/RhhHEdid2X
— College Golf (@College_Golfers) February 20, 2017
Golf.com reported that he had tested positive for cocaine use, although Johnson said in a later interview that it was because of alcohol abuse.
Because of the secrecy of PGA Tour punishment, it has never been confirmed but the implication was clear, Johnson was living the high life of a wealthy sports star and it was not just his golf career, but his personal life.
Johnson’s youth was not without its mistakes either. Indeed, in his teens in South Carolina, he was arrested after he purchased bullets for a stolen gun that was used in a fatal shooting.
Rumours of Johnson’s notorious womanising have been around the tour as well, Robert Lutitsch reported that it was “not a huge secret that Johnson had affairs with two wives of PGA Tour players – one broke up the marriage.” It has been noticeable that Dustin Johnson and Jimmy Walker are not paired together on Thursdays and Fridays of PGA Tour tournaments.
Dating fellow partier Paulina Gretzky, Johnson spent a lot of time with his fiancée’s father, who of course happens to be the greatest ice hockey player of all-time, Wayne Gretzky. He apparently told Johnson to shape up or ship out if he has any hope of marrying his daughter.
— Mark Kovacs (@MKovacsPhD) February 23, 2017
They played a lot of golf together and Gretzky’s winning mentality has rubbed off on Johnson, who told him to be always set new targets and try to be like Tiger.
“If I scored 50 goals in a season, I wanted 70 the next year,” Gretzky said. “Never, ever settle. I’ve told Dustin he has to be more like Tiger.
“Dustin has won three tournaments and a major. That’s a great year. Now go win five tournaments and two majors. I want him to see that only he can put limits on himself.”
Golf-wise, Johnson had always been there and thereabouts at the top of the game. He was a consistent winner on the PGA Tour, and has the most impressive consecutive years winning streak on Tour. However, he had blown his major chances.
In 2010, he led the US Open by three shots at Pebble Beach before shooting 82 in the final round to finish five back of Graeme McDowell. That same year at the PGA Championship, he grounded his club in what he thought was a waste area but turned out to be a bunker, costing him a two shot penalty on the last hole and the title there.
When chasing Darren Clarke at the 2011 Open, he pulled out a shank from nowhere to eventually finish second. And then worst of all at the 2015 US Open, when he had a 12-foot putt to win the US Open and two putts to tie Jordan Spieth, but three-putted to finish second.
It was typical of the new Dustin Johnson that the US Open heartache did not faze him and he returned the following year to win his first major at Oakmont, again not unnerved by a questionable rules decision midway through his final round, winning the title comfortably.
Since then, Johnson has won three more times, and he has transformed from being a good top 10 player who flattered to deceive at majors, to the best player on Tour according to the World Rankings, although Rory McIlroy might have something to say about that when he returns from injury.
In Golf Digest magazine, Johnson outlines the two biggest improvements in his game, driving and wedge play. Johnson’s switch to a power fade has given him greater control with his driver, at no loss of his prestigious distance. The way he is driving the ball at the moment is as good as anyone who has played the game.
Meanwhile, Johnson went from 80th in 2014 to 4th in 2016 in shots from 50-125 yards. The dogged dedication and practice on his wedge play sums up the new Dustin Johnson. He changed a weakness to a strength, and with his added focus, who would bet against him racking up multiple majors in years to come.
Staring contest with Dustin Johnson. GO! pic.twitter.com/I7271hCyWR
— Skratch (@Skratch) February 19, 2017