A Dustin Johnson masterclass put the field to the sword at Augusta National last November when golf’s number one player claimed his second Major title and a first Green Jacket at the 84th Masters.
Johnson, who had held the 54-hole lead and failed to convert four times at Major championships prior to the tournament, never looked back in a relentless display of almost robotic scoring, earning a first Major title since his maiden victory at the US Open in 2016 with a record 20-under par winning tally around Augusta.
“I was nervous all day – I could feel it,” said Johnson back in November. “The Masters to me is the biggest tournament, it’s the one I wanted to win the most. I felt it all day and I’m just very proud of the way I handled myself and the way I finished off the golf tournament.”
Johnson returns to Augusta with another win under his belt already this year having collected his second Saudi International title in February. He hasn’t quite been firing on all cylinders since then; a tied-54th finish at the WGC-Mexico and a share of 48th at The Players wasn’t vintage DJ, but he’s figured out a way of getting it around Augusta and although he accepts it will be a different test this time around, it’s still much the same golf course.
“You’re going to need to do everything well this week,” DJ said. “The course is in fantastic condition. It’s pretty firm for yesterday and today, for Monday and Tuesday. The ball’s bouncing a good bit. You know, greens are rolling really nice. So definitely a lot different conditions than it was in November. Obviously the golf course played really soft then just because of the weather.
“Obviously this weekend they are calling for a little bit of rain. Don’t know really how much it will affect the golf course, but as of right now, the course is going to play pretty difficult. You know, but it’s still the same. I mean, you’ve got to hit numbers and no matter if the ball is spinning back or staying in place or bouncing forward, you’ve still got to hit quality golf shots and land them in the spots that you want to.
“But with the course being firm and fast like it is, you’re definitely going to have to be a little more careful about where you hit the ball.”
As for his form, the world number one accepts that a few small things have been off in recent weeks but he’s knuckled down ahead of his title defence and in an ominous warning to the field, the defending champion believes he’s coming into the tournament at just the right time.
“I think it’s getting there,” Johnson added. “Sometimes playing in Hawaii with a lot of wind, L.A. with a lot of wind, Saudi with a lot of wind, sometimes get just a little bit off. I think that was kind of for me, just my setup, and posture was just a little bit off which caused me to hit some funny shots which is kind of the difference of playing really well or playing just okay. I think that was the main thing.
“But I’ve worked on it the last couple weeks and feel like I’ve played really good in Austin tee-to-green. I felt like I actually — if we were playing stroke play, I felt like I would have played really well, just it’s match play. Things happen. I feel like the game is starting to get really sharp again and I feel really comfortable, so looking forward to this week.”
Given his dominance of the game of golf in recent times, who’s to say Johnson won’t join Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods as the only men to win consecutive Masters?