Dustin Johnson managed to shoot 3-under when he needed to and win the 2015 WGC-Cadillac Championship. A contributing factor was that J.B. Holmes, who began the day with a 5-shot lead, shot 3-over. Holmes made three bogeys in the first six holes, was just right there most of the day, but couldn’t recover from that:
Yeah, it was a great week for me. It was a great day. God is good all the time. Just didn’t make any putts. I hit a lot of great putts. A ton of putts I thought I made that were in the center of the Cup that at the last second broke out. I made a couple bad swings early. It was tough out there. Just wasn’t my day.
For Johnson, winning his ninth PGA Tour event after coming back from a six-month leave of absence, was a big deal. And it was made possible by some introspective work he did while he was away:
Oh, well, it means a lot. Obviously it’s one of my biggest wins, and especially after a long layoff, to come back out and win in my fifth start means a lot. I’ve been working hard on my game and been working hard on me, and so it means a great deal to have some success right out of the gate. It gives me a lot of confidence, too.
There has been unending speculation about his leave of absence because he and the Tour have chosen not to discuss the details because of its personal nature:
Yeah, because it’s personal and frankly, I just — it’s not really anybody’s business.
In the course of the media session he was asked directly if he had ever flunked a Tour drug test:
The door opened a bit when he made that statement about working hard on his game and himself. So a logical followup question was which needed more work?
And then he immediately deflected into comments about his game with no other comment about the work that he’d done on himself’.
But perhaps we can get some measure of the depths of that work when the conversation turned to how the birth of his son has affected his game:
It’s hard to describe, but just from the first day he’s born, your perspective on life completely changes. Things that were important aren’t important anymore. He’s kind of the only thing that’s really important, and being there for him and being a role model for him.
It kind of makes life a lot easier I think, just because there’s just one thing that’s kind of all you think about. It definitely simplifies stuff.
Asked to elaborate on just what was it that was missing when he made his comment during a post-win television interview that he knew that he was good, but to be great “something was missing.”
You know, I mean, there’s a whole lot of things. But I really think the effort and the time I’ve been putting in in the gym has helped a lot physically and mentally, and then the time I’m putting in on my golf game, and then obviously in my personal life; I think that’s been the difference.
He also gave a hint of the depth of the work when he described the way he spent his time during his hiatus:
I enjoyed it. I got to spend a lot of time with [fiancee] Paulina and help her as much as I could through her pregnancy, and then the birth of our son. I really enjoyed being able to be home and not having to leave or do anything. So it was actually really nice.
I was in the gym every single day, every morning, and then spend the rest of the time either I would go practice a little bit or just hanging out with Paulina.
Asked which made this win more meaningful, that it came after his long layoff or that it’s his first as a father, he reinforced the things that now seem to be driving his decisions:
First as a dad, definitely, is the most special (smiling). You know, Paulina and Tatum were waiting for me when I got done. That was the best part of the day for sure.
And as to what was important to him now, his answer was no different:
What’s important to me is sitting right over there [Paulina] and the other one’s not here right now. He’s probably in the car seat, but that’s what’s important to me now.
They say that you can’t put a value on finally finding contentment and peace in your life, but in Johnson’s life, we now know it was worth at least $1,570,000.
There was one other closing response that was off this topic, but was an amusing revelation of the humanity of these stoic Tour players we see each week, even a great one like Johnson. It came up in the context of the daunting, successful drive he was able to make on the 18th hole that led to a par and his victory. Has he ever thought about failure over a shot?
I mean, sure, I don’t know, I imagine, like don’t hit this one in the water. Yeah, I think those things all the time (laughter). I was thinking the same thing on that drive: Don’t hook it (laughter).
See? Just like us.