In a sport where the majority of players seem to follow a similar path in the pursuit of greatness, things get a lot more interesting when we get the outliers who are almost unrecognisable from their peers. Dustin Johnson is a particular case in point. If you’re looking for a player to wax lyrical about a tournament or a new sponsor, you wouldn’t position Johnson anywhere near the front.
The South Carolinian, who turns 40 next June, has an X account but it hasn’t been used for a year. His Instagram account has over one million followers, but offers the bare minimum that his LIV Golf employers most likely require. If you’re looking for a few nuggets in a pre-tournament press conference, he will likely offer, if you’re lucky, half as much as a Rory McIlroy or a Jordan Spieth.
But in spite of that, there's something so fascinating about the man affectionately nicknamed DJ. And there's more than sometimes meets the eye. Claude Harmon has coached Johnson for the vast majority of the past decade and he pinpoints part of Johnson’s success to something that not many of us would suspect.
“DJ is very meticulous, I don’t think people would realise that. He’s very organised, which you maybe wouldn’t think about him. The headcovers all have to match the bag. At the US Open, TaylorMade had a really funky and colourful bag, but one of his headcovers didn’t match it and he could never use that. So they had to go and find a different one,” he says.
“He’s very organised. If we’ve got a car, he will keep the bag, towels, balls and shoes in specific places. Because he’s so nonchalant, you wouldn’t think he’s borderline OCD about the way he looks. If he gets a stain on his shirt then we’re calling somebody to go and get another one.”
Johnson views himself in a similar light, and there's perhaps no other professional golfer out there who has the same levels of self-acceptance and comfortability with who they are.
"As chilled as I am, I’m very particular about everything, especially golf wise," says Johnson. "The lies, lofts, shafts, weights, whatever it is, I’m very meticulous. With golf, it’s never going to be perfect, but I try to practise perfect. The one thing I love about golf is you strive for perfection but it’s never going to happen,” he says.
“I usually come out an hour-and-a-half before I play. I’ll putt first and then go to the range and start with wedges, then my 8-, 6- and 4-iron. It’s the same thing every day. I’ve done that for years. I take my time and make sure I’m never rushing. Most of my warm-up is with my wedges – if I’m hitting my numbers with those, everything else will fall into place.”
Johnson's way of operating has clearly worked. His career has included two Major wins, six victories apiece in the WGCs and FedExCup play-offs and numerous Ryder Cup appearances. More latterly, he’s won two LIV Golf events and his 4Aces outfit ran away with the team title in its inaugural year.
“I’ve done alright. I’ve missed a lot of opportunities, but I’ve also done pretty well too,” explains Johnson with typical modesty and simplicity.
There have also been some Major near misses in there, too, but to say Johnson doesn't dwell on those is perhaps the understatement of the century.
In the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach, he went to bed on the Saturday night with a three-shot lead before blowing that with an outward 42. The following year, Rory McIlroy shot the same score to throw away The Masters, a round that seems to have haunted him ever since. “That one probably bothered me until the next day,” says Johnson.
Later that season, Johnson looked like making his Major breakthrough when he came down the 72nd hole with a one-shot lead at Whistling Straits in the US PGA Championship. He then grounded his club in one of the thousand sandy areas he didn’t realise were classified as bunkers. He was handed a two-shot penalty and somehow finished in a tie for fifth. “I was frustrated for about an hour,” Johnson adds.
Fast forward to the 2015 US Open at Chambers Bay, where he had a 12-foot eagle putt to beat Jordan Spieth. However, he ended up taking three more shots. How did he react to that? His response probably won’t surprise you at this point. “I slept in a little bit that morning. But, yeah, I played golf the next day after Chambers.”
You wouldn't put it past Johnson to win multiple additional Major titles, though it's probably fair to say his form in 2023 has fallen short of his high standards. But whatever happens next, he'll continue to be a fascinating and popular cog in the professional golfing wheel.
Get the Golf Monthly Newsletter
Subscribe to the Golf Monthly newsletter to stay up to date with all the latest tour news, equipment news, reviews, head-to-heads and buyer’s guides from our team of experienced experts.
Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on skysports.com. He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.
- Nick BonfieldContent Editor
Report: PGA Tour Course Could Be Set For $16m Renovation Paid For By Members
Detroit Golf Club, which hosts the Rocket Mortgage Classic, will hold a vote to approve the upgrades paid for by members to
By Ben Fleming Published
'A Lot Of Positives' - Patty Tavatanakit Eyes Back-To-Back Victories In Home LPGA Thailand Event
Patty Tavatanakit ended her near three-year winless run at last week's Aramco Saudi Ladies International
By Ben Fleming Published
'It’s Hard To Believe I’ve Made It This Far' –Sepp Straka Reveals How He Became A Ryder Cup Player Despite Being The Second Best Golfer In His Family
Sepp Straka has won two times on the PGA Tour and lifted the Ryder Cup, but he might not have made it as a pro without his twin brother Sam...
By David Facey Published
'No Golfer Is Permitted To Loudly Enthuse About Another Player’s Shot Before It Has Finished Its Travel' – The 8 Unwritten Rules Of Golf That Everyone Should Follow...
The official rules of golf are all well and good, but it is the unofficial, unwritten rules that actually make the golfing world go round...
By Richard Russell Published
Is Nike About To Quit The Game Of Golf For Good?
Is the end of the 27 year relationship between Nike and Tiger Woods pointing to something larger within Nike Golf?
By Dan Parker Published
'They All Sting A Little Bit, But Not Winning The Masters Will Forever Leave A Sour Taste In My Mouth' – Ernie Els Opens Up On His Major Near-Misses And Reveals Where He'd Take A Career Mulligan
Ernie Els is a Hall of Fame player and one of golf's all-time greats, but he still has some regrets. Here, the four-time Major winner discusses the ones that got away...
By Garrett Johnston Published
Tom Kim Exclusive Interview – The Future Golfing Superstar On Turning Pro At 15, His Bromance With Jordan Spieth And Chasing Major Titles
You only need to look at the PGA Tour record books to know that Tom Kim is a very special player indeed. We catch up with the 21-year-old South Korean sensation with the golfing world seemingly at his feet
By Andrew Wright Published
'We’ve Seen Well Over A Quarter Of A Million People In 12 Years' – How The Golf Trust's New Approach Is Helping Grow The Game In 'Untraditional Golfing Spaces'
We speak to Cai Menai-Davis, the founder and director of The Golf Trust, which aims to bring new faces to the sport through its work in the community
By Jeremy Ellwood Published
'The Doctors Said They Didn’t Think He Was Going To Make It To The Weekend So We Should Start Making Plans' – The Remarkable Story Of Charlie Crosby's Courageous Journey From Near Death Back Onto The Golf Course
Charlie Crosby collapsed in June 2019 and it looked like his days were numbered, but amazingly, the former scratch golfer is back playing again. Here, with the help of his dad, he tells his inspiring story...
By Jeremy Ellwood Published
'No Disrespect To Rory, But It's Tommy For Me' – Would Fleetwood Be A More Popular Major Winner Than McIlroy In 2024?
Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood are both extremely well-liked golfers who will be desperate for a Major triumph this year. But if we had to pick one for Major glory, who would it be?
By Jeremy Ellwood Published