Dustin Johnson entered the 2021 PGA Tour season riding high, having dominated the back half of the 2020 season, winning the Tour Championship, the Players, and the Masters all in the span of three months to vault to No. 1 in the world.
The 2021 season didn’t follow the same script, as he missed the cut at the first two majors, the Masters and the PGA, and just couldn’t quite find that same level. However, as the calendar gets set to shift to fall once again, Johnson is starting to show some of the form of a year ago, posting a top-10 at The Open and some more solid finishes recently, hoping to peak at the right time once again. Johnson enters the FedEx Cup Playoffs 17th in points (still No. 2 in the World Ranking), needing to make up some ground to have a chance at going back-to-back for the $15 million prize, and is one of two players (alongside Collin Morikawa) to be officially locked in to the U.S. Ryder Cup team for the late September event.
Prior to this week’s Playoff opener at the Northern Trust, Johnson spoke with Uproxx on behalf of BodyArmor to talk about this season, when he felt he started to find his game again, the narrow margin between winning and not contending on the PGA Tour, the Ryder Cup and more.
To start, you’re up in New Jersey for the Northern Trust. How are you feeling about that where your game is as you come into the Playoffs?
The game’s starting to get back to the form that, you know, it’s really close to what it was last year around this time. Obviously this year’s been a little slower than I would have liked but there’s three really big tournaments coming up that can change that in an instant.
You had a top-10 at The Open. Did you feel like you kind of found something there? Obviously the majors hadn’t gone, as you’d hoped leading up to that.
Yeah, started playing a little better at The Open. It still wasn’t quite as good as I would have liked to and then a couple weeks ago in Memphis, you know, I felt like I really played well there. A few mistakes here and there that cost me for possibly having a chance to win or winning, but I felt like I played more like — it was a lot more solid. Even though I didn’t have my best stuff, I was still playing, playing pretty well. So I’m definitely pleased with where the game is. I’m starting to see a lot more consistency, day in and day out. and that’s kind of the key for me to playin well and contending each and every week is just getting that consistency back with the golf swing, with a shot shape. So, definitely excited about the playoffs.
I know for me, when I’m playing and I fall into some bad habits, it’s one of those things where it can be tough to kind of see those for yourself. What’s your process when you start feeling like you’re falling into some of those habits and not seeing that consistency? How do you take that step back and work with your coach and find those things to get back in that rhythm and get back to where you know you can get to?
Yeah, I mean, it takes time, that’s the only thing. Especially at this level, it’s not, you know, even though you might not be playing good or hitting it as good as you like, for me, it’s not that as far off, but it’s just that little, little bit off. It’s the difference between … three good rounds during the week doesn’t win you any golf tournaments, you know, you’ve got to play four good rounds. That’s kind of how I’ve felt like I’ve played all year really. Play three pretty good rounds and then one not so go one, and it’s kind of how it’s been all year. So, to put the four rounds together, you just got to be a little more consistent. But, yeah, I feel like I just haven’t had my best stuff this year, but like I said I’ve worked hard on my game lately, it’s starting to feel really good, and obviously this is a good time of year for it to feel good.
Obviously there’s the playoffs, but then you also have the Ryder Cup coming up at Whistling Straits. You recently locked in that you’re going to be there. What are you looking forward to most about getting back to Ryder Cup play after a year where we were supposed to have it in couldn’t?
Yeah, the Ryder Cup’s one of my favorite events that we play in. Obviously it’s such a cool event. So, making those teams is always really important to me. You know I love the team aspect, so always look forward to that event, whether it be the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, but obviously the Ryder Cup this year it’s something I’m really looking forward to. Obviously trying to try to get that Cup back, but I think we’re gonna have a great team. Playing a Western Straits, it’s a golf course that I really like and had some success there. So, yeah I’m really looking forward to it. Obviously, the atmosphere at a Ryder Cup is something that you just can’t describe it right. It’s unbelievable.
You mention Whistling being a place that you’re comfortable with and I think most of the guys on the US team will be, and how important do you think that’s gonna be? Obviously there were some struggles in France on a course that I don’t think a lot of you guys were as familiar with and coming back home and into a course that you guys have played in in major competition and in high stress situations, how do you think that that can help you guys?
Yeah, I think it’ll be good. Obviously, we’re going to have to play well if we want to win. I mean, the other team’s going to be good. It’s a golf course that — you know, obviously, on paper, we should be the favorites, but that doesn’t matter. I mean, I think the teams are gonna be really evenly matched. And if we want to bring the Cup back then, we’re gonna have to play some good golf. But yeah, it is a golf course that’s going to be set up pretty well for our team, and, yeah, I’m just looking forward to it. Obviously it’s just such a fun week, you know, hanging out with the guys all week, the captains. I mean, you get a ton of fans out there, just the atmosphere is incredible. So, it’s a lot of fun playing for your country, and I love it.
You’re now one of the elder statesman and veterans of the team and you’re gonna have some young guys this year — Collin Morikawa, we know, is going to be making his debut. What are the things that you can impart some wisdom to them about playing in that event, because it’s a different pacing and then the team aspect on top of that.
Yeah, I mean, the young guys, they’re very talented, very good players. So not going to need much. If they got some questions, obviously we’ll try to answer them. But we got a great captain and great assistant captains, so you know I’m sure they can answer all the questions, but yeah I’ll be happy to help any of them if they need it. But it’s just one of those weeks where you just want to relax, have a good time, and enjoy it because it’s one of those things that’s so special, you just want to make sure you enjoy it.
And as these young guys come in — you’re partnered with BodyArmor and you’ve been with them for a while — how has your approach to nutrition and taking care of your body changed over your years on Tour? And how much more deliberate do you have to be now about what you’re putting into your body to as you think more about longevity as you near 40 and wanting to continue to play it at a high level?
Yeah, I mean it’s really important. BodyArmor, obviously they make an unbelievable sports drink, by far the best as far as, if you’re gonna put something in your body, you want to make sure that it’s clean and it’s the right stuff and it’s going to help you achieve what you want to do. Which BodyArmor does, especially with all the electrolytes, there’s no artificial sweeteners or flavors, so it’s something that was an easy partnership for me. I use it on daily basis, so that was easy.
But yeah, as far as nutrition, I’ve really gotten a lot better about what I eat, what I put in my body when I’m training and pretty much all the time. I like food a lot, so I enjoy eating just about everything, but I’m really cautious about … I have a chef and he makes unbelievable food, but super healthy and you definitely can tell the difference. And so yeah, as you get older you want to try and stay fit and continue to get stronger and still swing the club pretty hard, nutrition and and hydration are huge parts of that.