Dustin Johnson has had a seven month stretch unlike any other in his life.
It was 7 months ago that the Jupiter resident announced that he was taking a six month leave of absence to deal with “personal issues”. Shortly thereafter, golf.com released a report saying it was actually a six month suspension for a failed drug test. Johnson denied that report many times but either way he wasn’t playing golf for six months, that much we knew.
During that six month leave, a lot happened. He missed the FedEx Cup playoffs and the Ryder Cup. He spent a significant amount of that time with Wayne Gretzky, the father of his fiancee Paulina, who has served as a mentor for Johnson. He and Paulina also welcomed the birth of their first child, a boy who they named Tatum.
When he made his return to golf at the Farmers Insurance Open, exactly six months and three days after his leave, everyone wondered how he would come back. One month into his return, we have our answer: as a PGA Tour champion.
Johnson rallied for seven shots down Sunday to win the World Golf Championships – Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral. It was the eighth consecutive season in which Johnson has at least one win on Tour, a PGA Tour record.
Since his return, he has played in five tournaments, making the cut in three of five of them. When he makes the cut though, he makes it count.
At the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where he played alongside Wayne, he finished in a tie for fourth. The next week, at Riviera, he lost to James Hahn in a playoff. While he missed the cut at The Honda Classic at PGA National, Johnson said this week’s performance was probably the most special of his career because of what he went through to accomplish it.
“I knew I was really good,” Johnson said. “I knew there was something I was missing that could make me great. I was working hard on that, and I think it’s showing right now. … It’s tough. I’m so excited right now, I can’t hardly talk. It feels great. The one definitely, by far, is the best one.”
Coming out of the gate to start the week, Johnson didn’t look fully comfortable at times, especially on the greens. In fact, a Friday 73 nearly derailed his tournament. Johnson continued to fight. He hit a hole in one on the par-3 4th on Saturday and nearly matched it with another ace on Sunday. His putting though was still giving him trouble.
Entering the final round Sunday playing in the final group but six shots behind 18, 36, and 54 hole leader JB Holmes, it was go time for Johnson. Holmes faltered early, bogeying three of his first six holes. When Johnson and Holmes stepped up to the seventh tee, Holmes’ six shot lead was gone. It wasn’t Johnson who had the lead though, the lead at that point belonged to Bubba Watson. Bubba faltered on the back as well, dropping three shots in a four hole stretch. Suddenly, Johnson, who had been playing steady all day, found himself in the lead and never gave it back, culminating in his two putt par on 18 to seal the victory.
Johnson finished one shot clear of Holmes, who shot a final round 75 and couldn’t close on his three day lead.
“I knew if I shot 72, that would probably be good enough. That’s kind of what I was going to, to be honest with you, I thought probably 2 or 3 over would have been enough,” Holmes said.
Watson, who held the lead briefly on Sunday as well, finished third.
“It’s a great week, but obviously you wish it would have finished up a little different.” Watson said.
For Dustin Johnson though, Sunday’s win is a culmination of the last seven months of his life, and everything he has been working on to get back to the top of the sport.
“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.”
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