Nick Bonfield analyses Dustin Johnson's wedge game after witnessing a dedicated practice session at Augusta National
Wedge game clear focus for DJ at Masters
Ask ten different people what the key to success at The Masters is and you’ll probably get at least five different answers. After watching Dustin Johnson for an hour on the range at Augusta National on Tuesday, I’m fairly confident I know what his response would be.
Indeed, as I’m writing this, a picture of Johnson with a wedge in his hand is appearing on the giant media-centre centre screen. This morning, he hit at least 80 wedge shots while others around him were smashing drivers and drilling long-irons.
I arrived on the driving range at roughly 8am local time and left at roughly 9am. In that time span, Johnson hit shots exclusively from 50 to 125 yards… and rather accurately, I might add.
The wedge game has been a real focus for the World No.1 over the last couple of years. In 2012, Johnson ranked 143rd on the PGA Tour in approaches from 100-125 yards. Last year, he ranked fourth.
Related: DJ on the Old Course
At this point, his driving is so good that it’s almost a given. You feel as if he doesn’t think he needs to do much work in this sphere – a 30-minute session here and there will keep things ticking over nicely. His mindset when it comes to wedges, however, is completely different.
He’s already a very good wedge player and he’s determined to get even better. His approach makes a great deal of sense. He averages more than 316 yards off the tee (first on the PGA Tour), so the vast majority of his second shots into par 4s are played with a wedge in hand. At Augusta, you’d expect him to be coming in to 1, 3, 7, 9, 14 and 17, at the very least, with wedge.
His Masters practice regime also reveals to me that he plans to hit a lot of drivers. And why wouldn’t he? Augusta National is fairly open and it’s not as if he’s particularly wayward with the big dog.
On the range, it was interesting to see DJ aiming for spots on the turn rather than particular flags. He was almost hitting one shot as marker and trying to nestle subsequent approaches as close as possible to that ball. From 75 yards away, he was deadly. At one stage, he hit four consecutive balls within a four-foot radius.
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Butch Harmon stopped by to watch for 15 minutes or so. The only advice I saw him give to the rhythmical Johnson seemed to relate to getting through the ball. Honestly, he didn’t seem to need any guidance.
It was also fascinating to see his approach to practice vary during the later stages of his session. He played one shot to one target, the next to a different one and a third to yet another one, with his targets between 50 and 125 yards away. Performance coaches suggest you practice in this way as it’s more in line with the variety you face on the golf course.
I must admit I left the range mightily impressed. Johnson’s flow and timing looked on point, his accuracy was first-rate and his dedication to practice was admirable.
I also left the range thinking whoever, or whomever, shoot(s) a lower 72-hole score than Dustin will have played their socks off. It’s hard to see anyone beating him at this moment in time.
Attend The 2018 Masters with Your Golf Travel – visit yourgolftravel.com/us-masters Experiences including flights, hotels & tickets are available. Nick Bonfield travelled to the 2017 Masters courtesy of Your Golf Travel.
Nick Bonfield joined Golf Monthly in 2012 after graduating from Exeter University and earning an NCTJ-accredited journalism diploma from News Associates in Wimbledon. He is responsible for managing production of the magazine, sub-editing, commissioning and feature writing. Most of his online work is opinion-based and typically centres around the Majors and significant events in the global golfing calendar. Nick has been an avid golf fan since the age of ten and became obsessed with the professional game after watching Mike Weir and Shaun Micheel with The Masters and USPGA respectively in 2003. In his time with Golf Monthly, he's interviewed the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Jose Maria Olazabal, Henrik Stenson, Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and Billy Horschel and has ghost-written columns for Westwood, Wayne Riley, Matthew Southgate, Chris Wood and Eddie Pepperell. Nick is a 12-handicap golfer and his favourite courses include Old Head, Sunningdale New, Penha Longha, Valderrama and Bearwood Lakes. If you have a feature pitch for Nick, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with 'Pitch' in the subject line. Nick is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade M1 Fairway wood: TaylorMade RBZ Stage 2 Hybrid: Ping Crossover Irons (4-9): Nike Vapor Speed Wedges: Cleveland CBX Full Face, 56˚, Titleist Vokey SM4, 60˚ Putter: testing in progress! Ball: TaylorMade TP5x