Dustin Johnson made grown males cry.
The soft-spoken, light big of the south turned the emerald valley of Augusta National Golf Club into his personal octagon and battered and bruised not solely the sphere of play however all of his 91 foes final November.
In changing into the primary participant in Masters historical past to card a number of rounds of 65 or higher in the identical event – his earlier profession low had been 67 – the world No. 1 tied the 54-hole scoring document of 16 underneath after three rounds after which went the place no man had gone earlier than by reaching 20 underneath within the last spherical and ending there for a five-shot victory, the most important successful margin since Tiger Woods gained by 12 in 1997.
Johnson threw haymakers from the start of the 84th Masters, made simply 4 bogeys (the fewest of any champion), and hit 60 of 72 greens. When his lead was trimmed to 1 after two early bogeys within the last spherical, it spawned worry another main tragedy was at hand. Instead, he knocked an 8-iron from 185 yards to six toes for birdie on the sixth, added another purple quantity on No. 8, then scored once more at Nos. 13, 14 and 15 to depart his pursuers with nothing to do however weep and wave a white flag.
His grasp work was so staggering that Cameron Smith misplaced by 5 regardless of changing into the primary participant in Masters historical past to shoot all 4 rounds within the 60s.
“I proved I could get it done on Sunday with the lead at a major, bro,” mentioned Johnson, who beforehand had been 0-for-4 with no less than a share of the 54-hole lead in a significant. “There were doubts, for sure. I was proud of that round. After the bogeys, it wasn’t like I was frustrated. It didn’t bother me. Just had to stay patient and take it to the house.”
While others left the grounds to are inclined to their wounded souls, Johnson headed to the terrace placing inexperienced for the abbreviated closing ceremony. There, Woods, the five-time Masters champion, helped Johnson slip on the 42-long inexperienced jacket.
And then Johnson misplaced it.
The indestructible drive who pulverized Augusta National broke down throughout an interview and as onerous as he tried to carry again the tears and accumulate himself, the waterworks flowed and his phrases ceased.
“The tears came from all the joy, knowing all the work that went into it, the team around me,” Johnson mentioned. “Being the Masters champion in that moment, I was just so happy and proud. And having (fiancé) Paulina (Gretzky) there and my two boys and the family were across the street, and it was just a special moment. I was at a loss for words. I just couldn’t say anything there for a while.
“It’s still kind of a little surreal when I see the jacket and know I’m a Masters champion. All the memories come back.”
It was an comprehensible outburst of emotion. Growing up throughout the Georgia-South Carolina border on the outskirts of Columbia, about an hour’s drive from Augusta, the Masters was his Holy Grail. He went to Masters observe rounds with his dad earlier than he turned 10, performed the course for the primary time in 2008, performed in his first Masters in 2009. And lengthy into the nights of his youth, he was making putts to win the Green Jacket.
“The Masters will always be in my heart, with the history and growing up so close,” Johnson mentioned. “It’s pretty cool when a childhood dream comes true.”
There was extra behind the tears than a childhood dream fulfilled. Johnson thought of the heartache he endured in squandering victory in 5 earlier majors, some with tragic tones hooked up. And he was simply two months faraway from the latest main disappointment when his one-shot 54-hole benefit within the PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco vanished as Collin Morikawa raced by everybody.
Or the time he rolled down Magnolia Lane in 2017 having gained his final three begins however was compelled to overlook the Masters after he slipped and fell and injured his again in his rental house.
He thought of the six-month sabbatical in 2014 he took from the PGA Tour to take care of “personal challenges” and the way he labored to beat them. Since then, he’s gained 16 of his 24 PGA Tour titles, together with two majors.
Put all that collectively and Johnson let his guard down on this uncommon occasion and let the world see what just a few of his closest family and friends had seen.
“I was surprised that he cried and lost it,” mentioned youthful brother and caddie, Austin. “I’ve seen him get emotional about other things but not golf. But that tournament means so much to him. It humanized him a bit and everyone else got to see that.”
Colt Knost, the 2007 U.S. Amateur champion who performed a bunch of beginner golf with Johnson and later roomed with him on the street the primary yr they turned professional, was moved by Johnson’s victory and post-round interview.
“I started crying when I saw him cry,” Knost mentioned. “He’s got the biggest heart in the world and he’ll do anything for anyone that’s in his circle and those tears show you how much that tournament means to him and how much working his butt off to be the best means to him.”
The Masters masterpiece additionally got here a month after Johnson spent 11 days in quarantine in a Las Vegas resort after testing constructive for the coronavirus. Johnson, as is his nature, handled it and moved on with out lacking a beat.
The Masters capped a 13-tournament, put up COVID-19 tour de drive to finish 2020 through which he gained 4 occasions, together with the Tour Championship that earned him the FedEx Cup, and an 11-stroke romp within the Northern Trust the place he shot 60 within the second spherical and completed at 30 underneath. He additionally completed runner-up 3 times.
The victory solidified his perch atop the world rankings; he’s now spent extra time because the world No. 1 than anybody not named Tiger Woods and Greg Norman.
“The way he was playing at the end of 2020 I think is the closest thing to what Tiger Woods was,” mentioned elite swing coach Butch Harmon, who has labored with Johnson since 2009 and was with Woods from 1993 to 2004. “The only difference is Tiger was on for 20 years. When DJ’s on, and he’s firing on all cylinders, and everyone else is on, DJ wins.
“He is the closest thing to Tiger Woods I have ever seen.”
Editor’s be aware: This begins a seven-part sequence on the life and profession of reigning Masters champion Dustin Johnson. Check again to Golfweek.com every day for the subsequent half of the story.