http://www.terencecook.com/2012/01/taller-tactica-mental-personalizada-tmp.html

sábado, 17 de abril de 2021

LA MADUREZ GOLFÍSTICA DE JOAQUÍN NIEMANN (¿era mejor que fuera a la Universidad?)

Un querido amigo me pregunta por la madurez golfística de Joaquín Niemann comparada con los demás jugadores de la "Brigada Juvenil" del PGA Tour, Morikawa, Hovland, Wolff y Zalatoris, quienes, a diferencia de Joaco, asistieron a la Universidad en Estados Unidos.

La respuesta corta es que depende del nivel golfístico y la trayectoria pasada del jugador cuando cumple los 18 años, y es el momento en que se debe tomar la decisión si asistir a la Universidad con beca de golf, o no.

También depende de las ganas y capacidades estudiantiles de cada golfista.

Morikawa y Bryson DeChambeau, a mi juicio, tomaron buenas decisiones de finalizar sus estudios ya que en el caso de Bryson sus estudios de física lo ayudaron a perfeccionar su swing, y el título de Business Administration de Collin, en Berkley, una Universidad de primerísimo nivel académico, lo puede ayudar a tomar buenas decisiones en cuanto a la parte financiera y auspicios, en su promisoria carrera en el golf.

Pero, estos dos casos son claramente excepciones.

Excepciones a la regla de que la gran mayoría de jóvenes golfistas asisten a la Universidad por la beca deportiva y con el único objetivo de mejorar su golf e intentar llegar al mundo dorado del PGA Tour.

La parte académica suele ser absolutamente secundaria y la gran mayoría de estos jóvenes golfistas estudian poco y no terminan carrera alguna, y se retiran antes de los cuatro años para hacerse profesional.

Por otra parte, son muchos los jóvenes, especialmente las estrellas europeas, que se hacen profesionales a los 18 años, o menos, sin ir a la Universidad, para intentar aprovechar al máximo sus grandes momentos como juveniles.

En esta categoría podemos consignar a Bernhard Langer, Justin Rose, Nick Faldo, Sergio García, Rory McIlroy y muchísimos otros.

El caso de Joaquín Niemann es interesante.

En un principio tenía un acuerdo para asistir a la Universidad de South Florida, pero el episodio del TOEFL (prueba de suficiencia en Inglés que requería la USF) le cambió los planes. Providencialmente, a mi entender. Esperaremos las memorias de Joaco para saber, de verdad, que sucedió, porque, creo yo, se manejaba a un nivel aceptable en Inglés.

Todos sabemos lo que sucedió a continuación. Niemann, a fines del 2017, se decide por el profesionalismo, gana el LAAC de Enero del 2018, se hace profesional después del MASTERS de ese año y arrasa en sus primeros meses en el PGA Tour para iniciar una carrera ascendente que lo ha llevado al N° 25 del ranking del mundo en menos de tres años.

¿ Le hubiera beneficiado en madurez golfística el haber asistido un par de años a la Universidad en Estados Unidos ????

Digo categóricamente no, por el siguiente motivo:

Los jóvenes talentos asisten a la Universidad en Estados Unidos con un solo objetivo,

Jugar el máximos de torneos posibles, puntuables para el ranking amateur mundial (WAGR) para, en algún momento, estar tan arriba, que pueden hacerse profesional y lograr las siete invitaciones a torneos PGA Tour y llegar por la vía corta (Special Temporary Membership), a la cima del golf mundial, sin tener que pasar por años en la "moledora de carne", de los tours secundarios.

En efecto, una posición alta en el WAGR, administrado por la USGA y el R&A, desde el año 2007, en base a un sistema que incorpora diversos torneos en el mundo entero con un sistema que acumula 104 semanas consecutivas, es el mejor indicador de posterior éxito en los principales tours del profesionalismo mundial (Majors, World Golf Championships, torneos PGA Tour y torneos European Tour).

Y la mejor evidencia son los resultados empíricos de los golfistas que han ingresado al profesionalismo a partir del año 2007, año de inicio del WAGR.

A modo de demostración les cuento que entre Enero del año 2007 y Junio del año 2019, 88 golfistas amateurs figuraron en el top tres de las versiones mensuales del WAGR.

De esos 88 jugadores TODOS, el 100%, hoy día son profesionales en tours de primer, segundo, tercer o cuarto nivel en el mundo entero.

Un altísimo % de ellos, el 75%, o sea, 66 golfistas han ganado al menos un torneo profesional.

En conjunto, estos 88 golfistas, los que, repito, en algún momento fueron top tres en el ranking amateur mundial, han ganado 316  torneos profesionales hasta esta fecha (Abril 16, 2021), entre ellos,17 Majors y 212 torneos en tours de primer nivel (PGA TOUR, EUROPEAN TOUR, MAJORS y WORLD GOLF CHAMPIONSHIPS).

Convengamos que este análisis es muy reciente ya que se inicia solamente el 2007 con la partida del WAGR (ranking mundial amateur) y aún así, los resultados de los 88 que han llegado a top 3 de este ranking, una vez en el profesionalismo son extraordinarios, y sólo serán mejores con el tiempo.

Basta considerar que en estos 12 años y medio de medición, cinco de los 88 top 3 del WAGR han sido N° 1 del mundo en el OWGR (el ranking oficial del golf mundial profesional).

En este período han sido N° 1 por 266 de las 630 semanas, o sea, un 42% del tiempo entre 2007 y 2019 (Junio). Estos cinco golfistas son McIlroy (106 semanas) Spieth (26), Dustin Johnson (125), Rahm (4) y Justin Thomas (5).

La correlación entre ser top tres, en algún momento, en el WAGR, y el éxito en el futuro profesionalismo es contundente e impresionante.

Aquí hay una primera conclusión para los Padres y los Coach, de actuales "promesas" del golf. Si después de dos o tres años de beca en una universidad de Estados Unidos, el joven no está ni cerca del top 10 del OWGR, ni pensar en el profesionalismo competitivo.

Madurez golfística es, entonces, la capacidad de competir de tal manera en los torneos amateur o profesionales válidos para el WAGR, que le permita al joven aspirante al profesionalismo competitivo encaramarse a lo más alto de este ranking en forma consistente y por muchas semanas.

Si no se puede, es mejor enfocar los esfuerzos universitarios en obtener un buen "cartón" o título para ganarse la vida de otra forma.

La competencia en el golf de elite es feroz y brutal y sólo llegan a lo más alto, aquellos con un talento natural de excepción, una capacidad de trabajo tremenda y una fortaleza mental única.

Y volvemos a la pregunta de mi amigo sobre la madurez golfística de Joaquín Niemann en comparación con Hovland, Wolff, Zalatoris y Morikawa.

A mi entender, la madurez golfística de Joaco es absolutamente equivalente a los cuatro mencionados, ya que todos fueron top tres en el ranking amateur mundial al igual que él. De hecho, Zalatoris llegó al N° 3, Wolff al N° 2 y sólo Morikawa y Hovland fueron N° 1, como Joaquín. Los talentos académicos de Morikawa, pueden, eso si, llegar a darle alguna ventaja, pero eso queda por verse.

Entonces, a los 19 años y sin tener necesidad de ir a la Universidad, Joaquín Niemann ya tenía, y por varios meses, su lugar en lo más alto del WAGR, tenía en su poder la prestigiosa medalla Mark McCormack al mejor amateur del mundo del año 2017, y, por cierto, ya tenía la certeza de las primeras siete invitaciones a torneos PGA Tour, al hacerse profesional después del MASTERS 2018.

La "pega" ya estaba hecha y no había necesidad alguna de ir a la Universidad. Todo lo contrario, en dos o tres años de golf universitario sólo podía perder respecto a lo que ya había ganado.


Más aún. 

Creo que no existe golfista amateur en el mundo que haya ganado tantos torneos con presencia de profesionales, siendo todavía amateur. Es así como, a sus 18 años ganó cinco torneos abiertos en Chile y varios de ellos por muchos golpes de ventaja.

Me refiero a ABIERTO BRISAS SANTO DOMINGO (Noviembre 2016), ABIERTO DE GRANADILLA (Enero 2017), ABIERTO LOS LIRIOS (Marzo 2017), ABIERTO BRISAS CHICUREO (Septiembre 2017), ABIERTO CLUB DE POLO (Diciembre2017) y ABIERTO LA DEHESA (Marzo 2018).

También forma parte del caudal de "madurez golfística" de Niemann el hecho de que la Federación de Golf de Chile hace años envía a los mejores talentos infantiles y juveniles a competir a una gran cantidad de torneos en Sudamérica, Estados Unidos y el mundo. De hecho Joaco ganó mucho en su etapa de amateur, incluyendo varios prestigiosas competencias en el gran país del norte.

La conclusión es clara.

Joaquín Niemann no ganaba nada con asistir a la Universidad antes del profesionalismo.







 

lunes, 12 de abril de 2021

MASTERS 2021: HIDEKI, LA ESTRELLA SILENCIOSA (buen artículo de Golf Digest con algunos comentarios de Niemann sobre el gran campeón)

 THE NEW MASTER

Masters 2021: Hideki Matsuyama, quiet star, makes a loud statement for his nation and for himself

Ben Walton

AUGUSTA, Ga. — The new Masters champ is so down-to-earth he drives a minivan. He is so private that no one knew anything about his love life until well after he was married; probed why he had kept it a secret for so long he said, “Because no one asked.” The new Masters champ is so soft-spoken the joke among the press corps is that while he doesn’t speak much English he speaks even less Japanese, favoring terse, vague answers when interrogated by the omnipresent reporters from his homeland.

There is absolutely nothing colorful about Hideki Matsuyama except the little splashes of neon in his wardrobe and the pyrotechnics produced by his golf clubs. But he claimed this Masters with a vivid performance, taking control of the tournament with a garish back nine on Saturday and then with ruthless efficiency building what turned out to be an insurmountable lead on the front nine of the final round. Matsuyama, 29, becomes only the second man from Asia to win a major championship, joining South Korea’s Y.E. Yang, a fun-loving character who quickly faded away. The new Masters champ has long been a world-class player—this is his sixth PGA Tour victory, including a pair of WGCs—but now he has a chance to become one of the sport’s biggest stars. Japan is a golf-mad country and Matsuyama will be a focus of these Games. (There is already speculation he will have the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron; Matsuyama drew some laughs in the champions press conference when he said he would consider it if his schedule allows.) ESPN analyst Andy North said on-air that this Masters victory could be worth $1 billion to Matsuyama in ancillary income, a fantastical number that nevertheless captures the scale of this win in Japan and throughout Asia.

“I think Hideki could compare to Ichiro and Sadaharo Oh,” says Nobuhito Sato, a board member of the Japanese Tour, raising the name of two national treasures in trying to explain what a green jacket means in Japan. Ichiro is the future Major League Baseball Hall of Famer and Oh is the all-time leader in home runs in Japanese baseball and a crossover figure who was immortalized in a Beastie Boys lyric.

On Sunday evening Matsuyama stayed in character, declining to call himself the greatest Japanese golfer of all time, though he did allow, “I am the first to win a major. If that’s the bar, I’ve set it.” He added, “It’s thrilling to think a lot of youngsters in Japan are watching today.”

They may not build a statue to Matsuyama amidst the neon billboards of Shibuya but around Augusta National he should at least get a water fountain dedicated to his back nine on Saturday, when he shot a back-nine 30 to roar to a four-stroke lead. It summoned some of the most momentous third rounds in Masters history, which propelled legendary players to victory: Hogan’s 66 in ’53; Nicklaus’s 64 in 1965, which he has called perhaps the finest round of his career; Seve’s 68 in ’80, the low score on a brutal day; Tiger’s 65 in ’97, which put him on the doorstep of history; Dustin Johnson’s bogey-less 65 last year on the way to a Masters scoring record.

“When he's on, he's on,” says Joaquin Niemann, a Presidents Cup teammate of Matsuyama. “I think this week he's definitely on. I think nobody can stop him when he's playing like that.”

On Sunday, the defining question was how Matsuyama would perform with the weight of a nation on his shoulders. A nervy block off the first tee didn’t inspire confidence. When he tapped in for bogey on the first green, Matsuyama had been on the course for 14 minutes and already his lead was down to one stroke thanks to a birdie-birdie start by the young upstart Will Zalatoris. But Matsuyama steadied himself with an up-and-down for birdie out of the greenside bunker on the par-5 second hole and then a crucial 15-footer to save par on the fifth hole. By then Zalatoris had cooled off and a host of would-be contenders (Xander Schauffele, Justin Rose, Mark Leishman, Jordan Spieth) were all going backward on a breezy day. Matsuyama has one of the heaviest hits in the game and he overpowered the par-5 eighth hole, sealing the birdie with a delicate chip. (His work around the greens was sensational throughout this Masters.) On the exacting ninth hole he drove it all the way to the upslope and then feathered a wedge to kick-in range.

By the time Matsuyama reached Amen Corner his lead was a whopping six strokes. He showed a certain amount of daring—some might call it recklessness—going for it on 15, and his laser-like 4-iron flew the green and wound up in the water hazard that’s part of the 16th hole, leading to a momentum-shifting bogey. Schauffele (who played holes 3-5 in four over par to seemingly blow himself out of the tournament) birdied 15 to cut the lead to two strokes, capping a spirited run, but he promptly rinsed his tee shot on 16. Matsuyama played prevent defense from there, ultimately finishing a lone stroke ahead of Zalatoris.

JD Cuban

“I had a really good warmup and I felt really good going to first tee until I stood on first tee and it hit me that I was in the last group of the Masters and then I was really nervous,” Matsuyama said. “But my plan today was to do my best for 18 holes. That was my thought throughout the day, just do my best, do my best.”

That was plenty good enough, and now there is little doubt what will be served at next year’s Champions dinner. Webb Simpson, one of Matsuyama’s favorite mealtime companions, told GolfDigest.com on Sunday, “We always get sushi. He loves sushi. When I played in the Dunlop Phoenix [tournament in Tokyo], he invited me to dinner, and the restaurant shut down for him. He ordered for me. Yeah, that was a little more like kind of the raw sushi, like the stuff was living, and then it was killed and we ate it right away.”

Matsuyama brings his interpreter, Bob Turner, to those dinners so the conversation can flow. He has little interest in acclimating to life on the PGA Tour, keeping his wife and child in Japan while he road-trips to tournaments. His love for his homeland has long defined his Masters experience. Matsuyama first announced his intentions in 2011, earning low amateur honors when he finished 27th thanks to a sizzling third-round 68. He had almost skipped that trip to Augusta because less than a month earlier the Great Sendai Earthquake struck the Tohoku region of Japan, from where Matsuyama hails. A series of tsunamis battered the coastline and a 50-foot wave flooded the Fukushima nuclear plant, triggering a meltdown and setting off a series of explosions. The death toll eclipsed 19,000. He dedicated his star-making performance at that Masters to his countrymen, saying, “I was very happy to be here, to play four rounds here at Augusta. There are some hard times right now in Japan. Hopefully my play was able to bring some encouragement to those that are in need right now.”

Now, with the Tokyo Olympics being compromised by a global pandemic, Japan once again turns its lonely eyes to Matsuyama. But who is the man beneath all the expectations?

“We've had a lot of fun when we play together,” says Niemann, a native of Chile who speaks passable English. “Obviously, we don't speak much, but we can understand, and we can like see in the eyes when you're laughing or something funny happens.” When they bump into each other on the range Matsuyama gives his pal a pound and says in English, “Let’s go, Niemann.”

“It’s funny to hear that word from him because you never hear him say anything,” says Niemann.

Or perhaps Matsuyama eschews small-talk because he has an old-school belief that the glory is in the achievement, not the pontificating. This man of few words has now earned the two most coveted in the golf lexicon: Masters champion.

Alan Shipnuck is a partner with the Fire Pit Collective.

miércoles, 7 de abril de 2021

NIEMANN y el MASTERS: Los sólidos pilares que avalan una potencial gran actuación

En golf nunca se sabe lo que sucederá y muy especialmente cuando se enfrenta un gran torneo en una cancha tan exigente como Augusta National.

Pero a pocos extrañaría una gran actuación de Joaquín Niemann.

Y las razones son múltiples, y expongo las principales a continuación:

1, Carrera en franco ascenso:

El Masters 2021 sorprende a Joaco en un gran momento y con sólidos argumentos para tener mucha confianza en su juego.

En efecto está N° 26 en el Ranking Mundial, N° 11 en el ranking FEDEX de la presente temporada, y segundo en el importante ranking de "Cortes Consecutivos" con 15 cortes hechos, partiendo desde antes del inicio de esta temporada.

2. Ha descansado cuando debió hacerlo:

A diferencia de muchos jugadores top, Niemann y su Equipo han sabido tomar los descansos imprescindibles en lo que va de este año 2021. No jugó el Texas Valero la semana pasada y, sin duda, llega al Masters en óptima condición física y Mental.

3. Estadísticas notables en lo que va de la presente temporada:

De verdad los números detrás del juego de Niemann son muy, muy buenos y en ascenso, sólo con un par de excepciones.

A. Desde tee a green:

Top 10 en las estadísticas de la temporada 2020/2021 en DISTANCIA DESDE EL TEE (8), STROKES GAINED OFF THE TEE (9), DRIVING TOTAL, (4), (combinación de las estadísticas del drive desde el tee y la precisión con el drive) y GREENES EN REGULACIÓN (10).

Por otra parte, Niemann muestra una notoria mejoría en su capacidad de hacer approach y putt desde menos de treinta yardas del green, subiendo su desempeño hasta el lugar 65 del ranking de SCRAMBLING de esta temporada, comparado con el lugar N°120 del ranking de la temporada completa 2019/2020.

Todo lo anterior lleva a Joaco a estar en el N° 15 del importante ranking de STROKES GAINED TEE TO GREEN de la temporada actual.

B. Sobre el green:

Una de las mejorías más interesantes en el desempeño de Joaquín Niemann en esta temporada 2020/2021 ocurre sobre el green.

En efecto, la estadística más importante del green es STROKES GAINED (LOST) PUTTING donde Joaco actualmente está en el lugar N° 36 del ranking de esta temporada, un importante ascenso si comparamos con su desempeño de las dos temporadas anteriores cuando estuvo, ambas temporadas, en lugares cercano al lugar 145.

Esta mejoría sobre el green se observa también en la estadística PUTTS PROMEDIO POR GREEN EN REGULACIÓN, donde Niemann asciende hasta el lugar 22 del ranking a la fecha, 2020/2021, desde el lugar 111 en la temporada anterior.

Bueno, y la solidez demostrado en lo señalado más arriba explica no sólo el ascenso de Niemann en el Ranking Mundial y su promisorio lugar N° 11 en la FEDEX CUP, sino que también explica su lugar N° 4 en el ranking de SCORE PROMEDIO con 69.7 golpes por ronda, y, asimismo, su lugar N° 6 en el ranking de NÚMERO DE BIRDIES PROMEDIO POR RONDA, con 4.67.

Sabemos que en golf todo puede suceder y que en una cancha con greens tan duros, rápidos y difíciles por sus grandes ondulaciones, es clave estar fino con los fierros a green. Seguramente el ganador de este MASTERS va a tener una excelente estadística de proximidad al hoyo con fierros o maderas desde distancias superiores a 30 yardas desde el green, incluyendo salidas en los hoyos par 3.

Y, es aquí donde observamos una de las pocas estadísticas de esta temporada donde Niemann aparece bajo su desempeño de años anteriores, y que, de confirmarse en este MASTERS, lo pudiese complicar. 

En efecto, en sus tres temporadas anteriores estuvo siempre top 15 o mejor en PROXIMITY TO THE HOLE, bajando en esta actual, hasta el lugar 163 de este ranking.

Para graficar la importancia de esta estadística, especialmente considerando los complejos greens de Augusta, Joaco, en promedio esta temporada está golpeando su primer putt desde aproximadamente 38 pies desde el hoyo, comparado con 33 pies en sus dos temporadas anteriores. Esta diferencia de cinco pies, es una enormidad en el golf de elite.

Pero, no obstante lo observado en este último punto, Joaquín Niemann ha demostrado mucha fuerza Mental y espíritu de lucha, desde siempre, por lo que no me sorprendería una gran actuación esta semana. 

No sólo, son los 15 cortes consecutivos que demuestran su gran capacidad de enfrentar desafíos y canchas complicadas, sino que también se refleja en la interesante estadística BOUNCE BACK (recuperación) que muestra la cantidad de veces que un golfista que acaba de hacer un bogey o más en un hoyo, es capaz de "recuperarse" en el hoyo siguiente con un birdie o menos.

Y, para los que conocen desde años a Joaco, no es sorpresa que actualmente marcha noveno en esta importante estadística con un 31% de birdies o menos en el hoyo siguiente en que hace bogey o más.

Raya para la suma, le deseamos a Joaco y a su Team un gran MASTERS, pero si por razones de golf no se da, en nada empañaría su espectacular temporada 2020/2021.

 

jueves, 25 de marzo de 2021

Gran artículo de GOLF DIGEST sobre DUSTIN JOHNSON, el golfista N° 1 del mundo

Este artículo tiene gran valor ya que destaca que Johnson tiene, a parte de sus condiciones naturales fantásticas para el golf, la mejor Mente de la elite mundial de este deporte.

Y, notables las afirmaciones de los Guru Butch Harmon y Bob Rotella.

Might it be that Dustin Johnson's greatest strength is his mind?

March 23, 2021

Jensen Larson

 

Photographs by Jensen Larson Photography

You see Dustin Johnson coming from a mile away. His shoulders slice through the air, rhythmically bobbing side to side, almost a shimmy. The arms flop with blissful disregard while his head stays completely still in a bubble of tranquility. The word “walk” doesn’t do it justice; it’s more aerodynamic. “Strut” comes to mind, but that word implies performance, and D.J. does not care who is watching.

He is an imposing figure—all of 6-foot-4, sinewy and lithe, full beard, pinch of dip. When the golf world is blessed with such an athlete, there’s a compulsive desire to place him in another sport. He looks like an NFL linebacker. Got a torso like a swimmer. Johnson, however, has the perfect body for golf. These extraordinary physical gifts are a huge reason why he is No. 1 in the world, the reigning Masters champion and the game’s alpha male.

Yet, as Johnson glides into his late 30s, it has become clear that what goes on between his ears—or, more importantly, what does not—might be his greatest strength. “His attitude is the best in the game,” says his coach, Claude Harmon III. “Other than Jack and Tiger, you can make an argument that he has the best mind in the history of golf.”

‘SLY LIKE A FOX’

The conventional wisdom on Dustin Johnson, 36, goes something like this: He doesn’t say much, so he must not be very intelligent. When asked at last year’s Masters about his favorite Augusta National tradition, Johnson deadpanned: “the sandwiches.” Not the green jacket, not the honorary starters, but the sandwiches. Was that the best he could come up with, or did he know what he was doing? In a zeitgeist when so many smart people seem eager to prove how smart they are, the challenge is to decouple those two qualities—to avoid mistaking silence for vacuousness. Yes, it’s true that Johnson doesn’t share much with the media. No, that is not by accident.

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“We say that D.J. is sly like a fox,” says Butch Harmon, who began working with Johnson in 2009 before handing off that responsibility to his son in recent years. “If you listen to his interviews, he doesn’t give you much—a lot of yes or no answers. That’s done on purpose so that he doesn’t have to do a lot of interviews. He’s smart that way.”

The Harmons are not the only ones in awe of D.J.’s vibe. After playing with Johnson for the first two rounds of the 2020 Masters, which Johnson would go on to win by five, Rory McIlroy described D.J.’s approach as, “See ball, hit ball. See putt, hole putt, go to the next.” It was a heartfelt compliment, perhaps with a hint of envy. Some players stand on the first tee at Augusta National and see trees left, a bunker right and future headlines racing through their heads. Johnson sees a welcoming canvas for his power fade—nothing more. “I try not to overcomplicate stuff—shots,” Johnson says. “Obviously, I’ve played enough golf; I understand the game very well.”

Therein lies Johnson’s genius—a preternatural ability to remove narrative from the equation and focus on what he can control. Perhaps the adage “golf is a thinking man’s game” needs an update given new insights into the brain and what peak mental performance looks like.

“I have spent my life teaching people to not think, as crazy as that sounds,” says Dr. Bob Rotella, the legendary sport psychologist. “Too many thoughts, especially in golf, can be paralyzing. Dustin has a wonderful ability to be very interested in what he’s doing but to underreact to everything. He never panics. Nothing seems to bother him.”

Athletes pay people like Dr. Rotella to help them quiet their minds in the most pressure-packed moments—to hone the process rather than the outcome. The process is within one’s control, the outcome not so much. It’s possible to play well and shoot a bad score, but few golfers are able to reconcile that paradox. D.J. is one of the lucky few.

“When he hits one in the water or out-of-bounds,” says Claude, “I’ll ask him afterward if he wants to go hit balls, and he’ll say, ‘Nah, not really, I’m good. Didn’t really hit it that bad today.’ He’ll shoot over par and say, ‘I made one bad swing today. But I also made a lot of good swings.’

"Most players, they’re all caught up in their score, in the bad things. Dustin is able to remove that from his thinking.”

Johnson does not get advice from a sport psychologist, yet he might be the best embodiment of what they preach. He does not read self-help books. Nor does he read much at all, especially not since sons Tatum, 6, and River, 3, were born. He does not practice mindfulness—at least not consciously. “I probably do my own kind of meditation, without even knowing,” he says. “I’ve never really thought about what I do. I just do it. I’m pretty good at doing that.”

This Zen appears to be a D.J. thing rather than a Johnson thing—at least according to his younger brother, Austin, who has been Dustin’s caddie since 2013. “I don’t know where it comes from,” Austin says, “because I didn’t catch on to whatever he caught on to. He’s been that way for as long as I can remember, in life and in golf.”

Most caddies double as on-course psychologists, or at least sounding boards for when their players want to vent. An integral part of the job is knowing when to step in with words of encouragement and when to give your player a kick in the butt. Austin’s job—looping for a man who named his boat Just Chillin’—is a little simpler in that way.

“Very rarely, if ever, do I have to say stuff like that,” Austin says. “We’re talking once or twice a year. He does more of that for me than I do for him.”

Jensen Larson

‘I’M JUST SENDING IT, BRO’

The Zen has been there since Johnson was a kid, but becoming an all-timer requires more than a good golf swing and a chill aura. There is raw talent, and then there is refined greatness. Johnson’s jaw-dropping potential was clear as soon as he arrived on tour as a soul-patched 23-year-old out of Coastal Carolina—the swing speed, the touch around the greens and the why-not attitude.

But the tour has a knack for exposing players’ shortcomings, and Johnson’s was volatility. He played a draw on almost every shot, which led to a violent left miss in pressure moments, and his “strategy”—if you could call it that—bordered on reckless.

“He was a free-wheeler,” says Butch Harmon. “As he used to say, on every hole, ‘I’m just sending it, bro.’ He didn’t take anything into consideration other than being totally aggressive on every shot.”

At the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, Butch and Johnson butted heads in a telling back and forth. Johnson was starting his week on 10, a drivable par 4 with a devilish green. Harmon knew Johnson could drive the putting surface and knew damn sure he would want to, but he pleaded with his then-26-year-old student to lay up and attack from the fairway because driving the green would almost certainly result in a three-putt.

Bro, I’m sending it, and I’m driving the green.

“Sure enough, he drives it on the front and three-putts,” Butch says. “That was D.J. back then.”

Johnson would miss a playoff that week after being penalized for grounding his club in a bunker on the 72nd hole. He was so impossibly talented that he could compete, and win, despite himself. Johnson won six tournaments in his first five years on tour and had great chances to win multiple majors: at Whistling Straits; earlier that year at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where he had a three-shot lead heading into Sunday only to implode and shoot 82; and at the 2011 Open Championship, where he push-sliced a 2-iron out-of-bounds to quash his chase of Darren Clarke.

By nearly anyone’s standards, it was a phenomenal start to a professional golf career. But Johnson is not anyone, and those close to him sensed he was underachieving.

Around that time, in 2013, he started dating Paulina Gretzky, the daughter of a man who did not underachieve.

“What we’ve given him as a family is the belief that he can be successful every week,” says Wayne Gretzky. “What we’ve given him is a belief that one win a year, for a guy of your ability, is OK—but you can do way better than that.”

Something needed to change if Johnson was going to realize his potential, and the mid-2010s proved to be a transformative period that molded Johnson into the polished player he is today. First, Paulina and the Gretzkys came into his life. Then, while she was pregnant with their first son in 2014, he took a leave of absence from the tour to seek professional help for “personal challenges.”

“I’ve obviously been through about every situation you could possibly throw at me,” he says. “So there ain’t nothin’—it’s going to be very hard to rattle me.”

After returning in 2015, he had his best chance yet to finally win the big one. After two perfect shots into the par-5 finishing hole at Chambers Bay, Johnson stood over a 12-footer for eagle to win the U.S. Open. Sixty-two surreal seconds later he tapped in for par, and Jordan Spieth had won his second straight major. There was fear, at least from the outside, that Johnson might never recover. He had now had four majors in his grasp and blown all of them. The heartbreak was piling up, and this, a three-putt from 12 feet in front of the world, was the most crushing blow of all.

After the defeat, Paulina, Austin, Austin’s then-girlfriend/now-wife Samantha and longtime agent David Winkle rode silently as Johnson drove the courtesy SUV back to the rental house. No one knew what to say; the entire team had been punched in the gut. Winkle gave D.J. a love tap on the shoulder to let him know everything was going to be OK. Johnson had had enough of the touchy-feely stuff. He pulled just off the road and turned to his inner circle with a firm message: “Lighten up! Guys, it’s just golf.”

The next day, Johnson flew to the Gretzky summer home at Coeur d’Alene in Idaho. He teed it up with Wayne and crew 21 days in a row and did not speak of that three-putt once. Nothing that Johnson could do would change what happened—so why give it an ounce of thought?

“That’d be like me losing Game 7, then going the next two weeks and playing pickup hockey with my buddies every day,” Gretzky says. “It’s unheard of. I knew he would get over Chambers because he just loves the game that much.”

The turning point came that December, when Johnson was testing new TaylorMade woods on the range of Sherwood Country Club in Southern California. He and Butch had been working to develop a fade off the tee, but Johnson wasn’t yet comfortable taking it from the range to the course. But when he couldn’t keep his drives on the planet ahead of a round one day with his old hook, he decided he would give it a try. “Think I shot 61 or something,” he says. “I’m like, All right.” Next day, Johnson hit a cut every swing. Shot 62. The next day he faded every one again and shot another 62 or 61. Three days in a row. “I was like, All right, I’m playing a fade.” It was literally that simple.

For most tour players, a significant change would be considered only after extensive launch-monitor testing, a coach’s input, an equipment tweak and a review from both houses of Congress. As such, perhaps no anecdote better illustrates the delightfully uncluttered nature of D.J.’s mind than this switch. He was 31, squarely in his prime, the No. 8 player in the world, the winner of nine PGA Tour events—and all that came with the draw he had played his entire life. Then, one day on the range before a casual round with the boys, with nary a launch monitor nor an instructor in sight, he decided he would switch to a cut. He has been a fader ever since. It was that simple.

Jensen Larson

FULFILLING A DREAM

Using a fade that limited his misses but didn’t cost him yards (he has been in the top 10 in driving distance every year he has been on tour), course-management discipline and a precise wedge game, Johnson made the leap from ultra-talented underachiever to one of the best players of his generation. The major breakthrough came one year after the Chambers calamity, at the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont, where he handled a messy final-round rules situation (and an eventual one-shot penalty) with characteristic aplomb. Again: Can’t control it, so why worry?

“I liken him to a cornerback in the NFL,” Butch says. “Gets beat plenty of times, but always straps it up and goes to the next play.”

The wins piled up during the next three years. Johnson reached No. 1 in the world for the first time in February 2017 at age 32, something of a late bloomer in an age of 20-something phenoms. The one-win-a-year cadence hastened to three or four a year. The funny thing about winning a lot, though, is that people start to care only about the results in the four majors. Despite more close calls—a blown 54-hole lead at the 2018 U.S. Open, runner-up finishes at the 2019 Masters and the 2019 PGA Championship—Johnson had yet to add a second major to his growing trophy mantle. That was the narrative: extraordinary talent, great player, wins a lot, only one major. The couch shrinks had their theories: He tries too hard on Sundays, or he doesn’t try hard enough. Plays too aggressive, or not aggressive enough. Can’t close. The man himself, for what it’s worth, never cared a lick.

“I care about what my friends and family think about me, I do,” Johnson says. “But people I don’t know—I don’t form an opinion about someone I don’t know because I don’t know them. Why do they think they have the right to have an opinion on me when they don’t know me? You can ask anyone who knows me—their opinion about me is going to be a lot different than what random people think.

“One thing I don’t care about is what the media says. I couldn’t care less. Truly.”

The major-curse talk peaked after the 2020 PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park, where Johnson played his way into another 54-hole major lead. Remarkably, this came less than a month after shooting 80-80 at the Memorial and pulling out of the 3M Open after a first-round 78. “Golf is about having a long memory of the good things and a short memory of the bad,” Rotella says.

“Dustin truly understands that.”

This time, at least, Johnson couldn’t blame himself for another major disappointment, shooting 68 that day at Harding Park only to be leapfrogged by a 64 from Collin Morikawa, 23, who was playing just his second major.

More scar tissue? Please. Two weeks later, Johnson shot a second-round 60 and a four-day total of 30 under par to win The Northern Trust. That field featured the top 25 players in the world, and the runner-up finished 11 strokes back. Yes, the near misses are part of Johnson’s legacy, but so are weeks like those when he makes this most complicated game look astonishingly easy.

“Golf IQ-wise, he’s a genius,” Butch says. “You combine that with the physical—when he’s on, he’s the closest thing to Tiger Woods we’ve seen. If he’s on and everybody else is on, he’s going to win. The only difference is, Tiger Woods was on for 20 years.”

Two weeks after his Northern Trust tour de force, Johnson won his first FedEx Cup title and entered the one-off November Masters as a clear favorite. Taking advantage of a gentler Augusta National, he played the first three rounds in 16 under par to earn his fifth 54-hole lead at major. He had gone 0-4 previously, but this time he had his biggest lead yet: four shots, setting the scene for a collapse or a coronation. When he chunked a chip into a bunker on the second hole, the Twitter fingers sprang into action. It was happening again. Surely nightmares of majors past were tormenting his thoughts. How could they not be?

“The only thing I was thinking, I can’t believe I just chunked that chip. And that was it. Honestly, I knew I was playing well.” He played his last 13 holes in five under to shoot 68 and finish at 20 under—breaking the 72-hole tournament scoring record (held by Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods) by two. “He was very aware that winning the Masters was an opportunity for him to change the narrative, which in life, you rarely get an opportunity to do,” Claude says. “You’re put in a hole, and you can’t get out of it. He knew if he won that, the narrative changes.”

Maybe that’s why Johnson succumbed to emotion on the 18th green. It was a jarring scene, like seeing your dad cry for the first time—you didn’t know he was capable of it. But if there ever were a time to activate the tear ducts, this was it—a victory in the biggest golf tournament in the world, an hour’s drive from where he grew up across the South Carolina border, and after so many close calls. Maybe he was thinking of all that as he struggled to find words—of Pebble and Whistling and Harding, of his maturation, of his children and his legacy. Or maybe it wasn’t that complicated.

“As a kid, dreaming about winning the Masters—to do it, I thought that was pretty f______ cool.”