AUGUSTA, GA. – Every golfer can learn from Dustin Johnson’s record-setting victory at the Masters.
He shot a final-round 68 Sunday to finish at 20 under par, two strokes better than the mark set by Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth. Johnson earned his second major title, winning by five shots, the largest winning margin since Woods’ 12-shot victory in 1997.
Here’s how you can play like DJ:
Pull the trigger: So many golfers take a million practice swings, think about their right elbow and their left foot, freeze over the ball, then hit a shank into the woods.
Johnson steps up and swings, and usually winds up in the middle of the middle of the fairway. He ranked sixth in driving distance for the tournament and hit 44 of 56 fairways, enabling himself to lead the field in greens in regulation, at 83.3%.
Don’t overthink it: Johnson is not known as a deep thinker. Or even a thinker. Asked about his putting backswing, he said, “I don’t really know. I just try to hit it on line.”
The week began with Bryson DeChambeau touting science and ended with a “feel” player setting a record for fewest bogeys (four) by a Masters winner.
Don’t tempt fate: DeChambeau said during his pre-tournament interview that “par for me here is 67.” Then he shot rounds of 70, 74, 69 and 73 and played his last round with 63-year-old Bernhard Langer, who hits the ball about 80 yards shorter than he does. Langer beat him by a shot in the tournament and by two shots Sunday.
Be an athlete: This might be the hard part. Possess the fast-twitch muscles of a basketball player, lift weights until you have Popeye forearms, develop an exceptional wedge game and hire your brother to read putts.
Johnson is so talented that his failure to win more majors had defined his career.
“I proved I can get it done on Sunday with the lead in tough conditions … and I proved to myself that I do have it,” Johnson said. “Because I’m sure a lot of y’all — well, there was doubts in my mind. When am I going to have the lead and finish off a major?”
Sunday, Johnson rendered the phrase “The Masters doesn’t begin until the back nine on Sunday” meaningless.
The key moment for him might have arrived on the No. 6 tee. He had just made two bogeys in a row after making just two in his previous 57 holes. His four-shot lead was down to two, as Australian Cameron Smith made his move.
The sixth hole is a 180-yard par-3. The tee shot is straight downhill. The pin was tucked on a small plateau in the right upper corner of the green.
Johnson launched a majestic 8-iron seven feet past the hole, made the putt and went on to set the scoring record and post his 11th straight round under par at the Masters (breaking Woods’ record of 10).
After tapping in for another par on the 18th green he hugged his caddie and brother, Austin, and his partner, Paulina Gretzky. Two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson, another Southerner who grew up dreaming of winning the Masters, was nearby wearing his green jacket. Johnson told him, “I’ve been dreaming of putting that jacket on all my life.”
Johnson wore his during an interview with CBS and became so emotional he couldn’t speak. Later, in the interview room, he recovered his voice.
“Starting today with a four-shot lead, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” he said. “From seven into the clubhouse I played really, really solid. It was still hard. I was nervous all day. But I felt like I controlled myself very well, controlled the golf ball in very difficult conditions.”
As a child he envisioned every putt winning the Masters. He practiced at Weed Hill driving range, hitting shots late into the night under the lights.
“Growing up so close to here, this is the tournament I wanted to win the most,” he said. “I think I look good in green.”