PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – From the look on his face, you’d think he’s pondering dinner options for the night. Or perhaps remembering that his water bill is due tomorrow.
But Dustin Johnson is being asked if he, with all the pressures and demands of being the world’s No. 1 golfer, is really as carefree as he seems. He leans forward slightly as the answer rolls out in his signature Carolina drawl.
It isn’t a joke, but everyone laughs anyway.
“You know, I try not to let things bother me,” he continued. “I think I do a pretty good job of it.”
No kidding. It’s one thing to have game-changing power. It’s another to have a top-tier short game. But pair those with an all-world temperament and the result almost feels unfair to every human swinging a club.
And his competition knows it.
“I don’t think it will faze him being where he is in the world of golf,” Rory McIlroy said. “I don’t think anything fazes him. That’s probably the understatement of the year.”
Johnson leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green, is second in strokes gained: approaching-the-green and third in strokes gained: off-the-tee. When a metric for “strokes gained: mental-approach” is devised, you can bet the leader will be a 6-foot-4, 32-year-old golfing machine being chased by 240 tour pros.
“I think it’s a great temperament to have, and it’s something I’m envious that I didn’t have that [as World No. 1],” Jordan Spieth said. “I hope that I can get back and then try and display a little more of that nonchalance that he walks with.”
From Spieth to McIlroy to Jason Day, former No. 1s spoke this week ahead of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass about the difficulty of maintaining that coveted top spot. Enter DJ, who assumed the OWGR’s No. 1 position in February and appears oblivious to any such pressures.
“Not so far,” he said, “but you know, I guess I’ve been here for a little while now.”
Cool as a frost-covered fairway.
Johnson’s more than 4 ½-point lead in the OWGR borders on absurdity. Rickie Fowler, marveling at the chasm of a deficit he and fellow players face, attempted to put it into context.
“I think JT (Justin Thomas) is right behind me in World Ranking, and we’re separated by .2,” he said. “So a full point, let alone four and five full points, is quite a large margin from one to two.
“So it’s going to take a bit of work from the guys that are ranked 2 to 10, or potentially someone further back, to even come close to Dustin right now.”
Or, as McIlroy put it, “I can’t see him falling off or dropping off. It’s up to the other guys to try and catch him.”
Not even DJ’s fall on the evening before The Masters could rattle him. Johnson took the necessary time to rest his back, then got sick the week before the Wells Fargo Championship, ended up with “zero practice” entering the event and finished in a ho-hum tie for second.
“You know, it’s just golf, at the end of the day,” Johnson said. “I try to have fun out there and enjoy it. I try not to let anything bother me.”
Yeah. We know.