Mental Golf: Dustin Johnson Stays Strong

mental golf dustin johnsonOne of the best examples of strong mental golf – Dustin Johnson is golf’s new symbol of resilience, according to this article by Jeff Rude in GolfWeek.

Golf’s new symbol of resilience, the heavyweight without a glass jaw, Dustin Johnson keeps taking big punches and getting back up, seemingly unfazed except by the lessons. He played in the final twosome in half of the past six major championships and, in dramatic but varied fashion, came up short each time. Some see growing pains.

At 27, he sees rapid progress without the need for salve.

The blows ran the gamut of health forms, save for the spiritual: emotional lapse at the 2010 US Open, mental error in an ill-defined PGA Championship bunker two months later and physical mistake when blocking a ball out of bounds with an unfamiliar 2-iron at the recent British Open.

The commonality is that Johnson shrugged each off with customary calm, choosing to frame the experiences as important blocks in a building process. His mantra throughout his education in the school of major knocks has been to value the gain of comfort and immediately jettison the negative.

“The more I put myself in this situation, the better (I am), the more I learn, the more I understand my game and what happens (under pressure),” said the freakish talent who won four times in his first three PGA Tour seasons.

Johnson followed his co-second at Royal St. George’s with a tie for sixth at the Nordea Masters and a week on an island off Spain with Amanda Caulder, his on-and-off girlfriend since college. He has heated up in summer after an uneven first five months, a mini-slump not unusual for a player who moves into his dream home. In this case, it’s a 7,800-square-foot waterfront spread in Jupiter, Fla., occupied in February and complete with two boats out back.

His regained form, thanks largely to a putting revival, and major brushes make him among the favorites entering the PGA Championship this week at Atlanta Athletic Club. And his latest close call again brings into focus his uncanny ability to purge undesirable results and recover pronto, as if nothing had happened.

His inner circle, to a man, marvels at that quality, saying he forgets about bad shots before balls hit the ground. Those closest to him maintain that non-stick coating is perhaps his best attribute, over the obvious prodigious length and the natural athleticism. The latter allows him to dunk basketballs while wet and barefoot and perform other feats that prompt his trainer to label him the best athlete he has ever seen.

David Winkle, the agent, suggests Johnson was “dipped in Teflon at birth.” Butch Harmon, the coach, likens him to a duck whose back repels water. Joe LaCava, the current caddie, says “one shot doesn’t affect the next.” Bobby Brown, his caddie of three years until April, figures the trio of major hits would have made a lot of other players disappear for a year or two and say “What have I done?” instead of Johnson’s “I’ll be better now that I know what to do.” Allen Terrell, his college coach at Coastal Carolina, says Johnson routinely bounces back because he is non-judgmental to the point of not differentiating good from bad.

Terrell suggests his protégé with the uncluttered mind could write a book about sports psychology, adding, “The worst thing he could do in his life would be to see one.” A sensible working title might be “Don’t Sweat Even the Big Stuff.”

“He’s the only player I’ve worked for who would hit a couple of bad shots and laugh at himself,” Brown said. “When he’d do that and say, ‘Come on, DJ,’ I knew things were fine. I’ve never seen him get serious on the golf course. The only time I’ve seen him get mad was at his sheepdog, Max.”

The same things for which Johnson has been criticized — being too laid back and loose and lacking attention to detail, such as with regard to rules and tee sheets — have fueled his rise. That is the double-edged sword with which he will attempt to carve out some history. In the insecure and often mechanical arena of professional golf, he’s a free-wheeling aberration.

His simplicity can be boiled down to: See shot, hit shot, forget shot.

This article certainly makes the mental golf of Dustin Johnson seem strong, doesn’t it?

Now that Tiger’s mental golf game has weakened, who do you think has the strongest golfers mind?


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