Here the world number one talks through the simple change that transformed DJ’s game
As Dustin Johnson plotted his way through the 2020 Masters, one thing was abundantly clear, this was a ball-striking masterclass. After three rounds the American had hit 81% of fairways, he had missed just seven greens and made only two bogeys.
The hallmark of the world number one’s game is, it seems, the complete control he has over his ball flight. Even the best players in the world hit bad shots, but the Dustin Johnson we see today rarely finds himself in double bogey territory. This makes all the difference, especially on golf courses where danger waits at every turn.
The key to his incredible consistency appears to lie with a decision he made at the end of 2015. When he burst onto the PGA Tour he was predominantly a draw player. However, he decided, and was able, to change his ball flight to a fade. In an interview with Golf Monthly in 2018, the American explained how it happened.
“Right when I started working with Butch, you know we probably worked for five years on hitting a cut before I considered hitting one in a tournament from the middle of the fairway.”
“It was at the end of ‘15, during the off season. I was struggling with the driver, I wasn’t driving it how I wanted to. I was just struggling. It was mostly with the driver. I was playing at Sherwood and I thought, ‘I’m going to cut it today’. I hit a cut shot all day and played well. The next day I went out and thought, ‘I’m going to cut it on every shot.’ It didn’t matter what flag, I just cut every ball. It was three days in a row and I played pretty well.”
“Ever since then I’ve just cut it. It is as simple as that. I felt like I had more control, I drove it better, I wasn’t hitting as many balls out of play. The reason I started fading it with the driver was to get my misses tighter. I’ve always been a good driver of the ball but when I drew it I could hit one way left or way right. I can still do that but it doesn’t happen as much.”
Watching the imperious DJ of 2020, you will notice just how often he relies on that left-to-right ball flight. It is clearly a shape he has complete trust in and this, it seems, lies at the heart of his ability to perform at such a high level.