World No. 1, Masters champion Dustin Johnson won’t relax: ‘I like being the best’

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Steve DiMeglio
·4 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Dustin Johnson said there are plenty of areas in his game where he can improve.

Wait, what?

He’s the No. 1 player in the world, the reigning Masters champion, the reigning FedEx Cup champion. He won PGA Tour titles 21, 22, 23 and 24 in 2020 and had four runner-up finishes. In his last seven starts of last year, he won twice, finished second three times, tied for third and tied for sixth.

Induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame is in his future, the 2016 U.S. Open trophy on his mantel.

And he thinks he can get better? That’s scary.

“Motivation for me, it’s not that hard. I like being the best,” the easygoing Johnson, 36, said Wednesday after his pro-am round at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. “I feel like the more I play, the more I grow as a person and as a golfer, the better I’m getting. So I still feel great. I feel young. I feel like I’m in my 20s, even though I’m not.

Sentry Tournament of Champions
Sentry Tournament of Champions

Dustin Johnson plays his shot from the 14th tee during a practice round prior to the Sentry Tournament of Champions on the Plantation Course at Kapalua Golf Club on January 05, 2021 in Kapalua, Hawaii. Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

“There’s plenty of areas in my game where I can improve; short game, putting, wedges, I still feel like I can get a lot better with the wedges. I can drive it better, I can definitely hit the long irons a little bit better, so I feel like there’s plenty of areas I can improve and so that’s what I’ll look forward to doing this year.”

Johnson’s 2020 is a tough act to follow but he’s in an ideal spot to start matching or surpassing the campaign – the Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. He won the Tournament of Champions here in 2013 and 2018, has eight top-10s in 10 starts here, and has 35 rounds under par, the most of anyone since 1999.

Sentry Tournament of Champions: Tee times, TV info | Fantasy rankings | Odds

“This is a place that I love coming every year,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed playing here. I like the golf course. I felt like the game, even the little that I’ve played, practicing a little bit the last couple days, everything feels pretty similar.

“Obviously not quite as sharp as I was probably back at Augusta, but I’m seeing a lot of the same shapes and I feel like I’m doing everything pretty well, even though I haven’t practiced a whole lot here lately.

“It’s OK to be a little bit rusty. The fairways are nice and wide and there’s still some shots, you got to hit some really quality golf shots, but I feel like I’ve had the last week or so to play a little bit. I’m rusty, but not too rusty.”

Johnson hasn’t played since winning the Masters at Augusta National in November, where he broke the 72-hole scoring record by firing 20-under 268.

The green jacket is in a closet at his home. He hasn’t watched a replay of the tournament but has a link to the video on his phone and plans on watching it sometime down the road. He thought about what he’ll serve at the Champions Dinner but hasn’t finalized the menu.

“It’s been really good being the Masters champ,” Johnson said. “Obviously, it’s something that I’ve always had on the list of things I wanted to accomplish. Winning it when I did was kind of nice because I did get to take some time off and enjoy. And obviously, with the holidays, spent a lot of time with the family and so it’s been great. Did a little bit of celebrating, too.

“Haven’t played a whole lot of golf, but that was on purpose.”

But now it’s time to get back to work. Johnson will have his hands full this week as eight of the top 10 in the world are in the field, including defending champion and world No. 3 Justin Thomas and No. 2 Jon Rahm.

But Johnson expects to be in the mix for a third title in Maui – and his first in 2021.

“I don’t have a lot of optimism. I expect to play well always,” he said. “So I’m not hoping to play well, I expect to play well.”

Related

Forward Press podcast: 2021 PGA Tour season preview, how long will DJ be No. 1

Whoop, PGA Tour team up to reveal how pros feel pressure

Adam Scott returns to Kapalua for surf and to ride a wave of momentum all the way to Augusta

Xander Schauffele got to Sentry Tournament of Champions because of COVID-19; then he got it