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Dustin Johnson is ready for fatherhood and the PGA Tour!

Dustin Johnson is ready for fatherhood and the PGA Tour!

Dustin Johnson is ready for fatherhood and the PGA Tour!

Golf Chats is a website to encourage discussions on various subjects relating to the game of golf. I am Mel Sole, Director of Instruction of the Mel Sole Golf School and SAPGA Master Professional.  I invite you to enter into a discussion on this or any article on the website.  The input is for the entire subscriber base to learn something new each time!  Please post your comments below.  Keep it clean and tasteful.  We are here to learn from one another!

Dustin Johnson is one of my favorite golfers to watch on the PGA Tour. 

I met him when he was still at Coastal Carolina College at a charity function to raise money for their golf team.  Everyone there was saying, “This guy is going to be the next star on the PGA Tour.”  And they were right. It did not take him long to show the world what a great talent he was.  However, something got in the way of that talent and derailed him with the PGA Tour suspension. 

I am not one to sit in judgment, and I hope he is back with a vengeance.  The PGA Tour needs players like Johnson, and I, for one, am looking forward to seeing him back competing and maybe picking up a Major.  I think his child will go a long way to helping him stabilize his life.

Recently, Jeff Babineau of conducted a phone interview with Dustin to hear what he sees on the horizon.

Dustin Johnson is ready for fatherhood and the PGA Tour!

Dustin Johnson escapes from the trap.

Dustin Johnson is ready for fatherhood and the PGA Tour!

If there is a subhead emblazoned across the hardcover edition of “Dustin Johnson, The Sequel,” it would appear to be this: Dustin Johnson has grown up.

With the ESPN cameras rolling a few days ago, he told a story of being on a practice range last summer after a long night of partying, trying to hit balls, knowing he was going to become a dad in a few months. It struck him that the path he was traveling wasn’t helping him to get the most out of his game, or his life, either.

But it wasn’t just that one day on the practice tee. There were too many just like it.

“Even the past, however-long, 29 years before that,” the 30-year-old Johnson told Golf Week in a 20-minute one-on-one phone interview Friday night. “It was time to grow up, pretty much was the best way to sum it up.”

Those are the words, at least. Now it’s a matter of following them up with some concrete action as Johnson, one of the most naturally gifted players in the game, readies to return to the PGA Tour after a six-month leave of absence.

Dustin Johnson is ready for fatherhood and the PGA Tour!

He’ll make his first start since late July at the Farmers Insurance Open, and then play Pebble Beach and Riviera before heading home to begin the Florida Swing at the Honda Classic.

One thing is evident in his voice: After six months away, he’s a pretty happy man. He became a new father this week, with his fiancee, Paulina Gretzky, giving birth to a son, Tatum Gretzky Johnson. That little bundle in itself is something that can dramatically alter a man, especially one whose impressive golf accomplishments and gifts (eight PGA Tour victories, $24 million in career earnings) have been lost beneath a shroud of drug-use accusations, partying, rumored suspensions and years of unfulfilled potential.

Johnson doesn’t care to delve into detail about the issues that have slowed his past. He’s focused on being a good father, and the better days that lie ahead of him.

“I think my life has already changed,” Johnson said. “There’s nothing better (than fatherhood). I was trying to think about it and how to explain it, but you can’t explain it. The feeling … everything seems so much less important except for him (Tatum).”

Johnson seemed to be rolling along just fine last August, having a season many would long to have. He’d won in China (HSBC Champions) to start the wraparound season, had two runner-up finishes and already had banked $4.2 million. He was a virtual lock to make another U.S. Ryder Cup team. But he missed the cut at the Canadian Open, and by the time the Tour reached Ohio for the WGC-Bridgestone, he was gone, vanishing suddenly with a statement he was leaving “to seek professional help for personal challenges I have faced.”

Shortly afterward, reported that Johnson had been suspended for testing positive for cocaine use.

The Tour, which has zero transparency in such matters, said Aug. 1 it hadn’t suspended Johnson, and the Johnson camp chose not to respond to the report.

Johnson recently told Sports Illustrated that his vice was vodka, not cocaine. Regardless, his start at Torrey Pines comes nearly six months to the day he left.

Johnson’s longtime agent, David Winkle of Hambric Sports, says Johnson was not in any rehab during his time off, but instead saw a team of top clinicians, including a life coach with whom he talks regularly, to help him examine his life and get his priorities in better order.

“He has a greater understanding of his consistency of dedication, work ethic, (and) lifestyle,” Winkle said.

“It’s not just flipping a switch when he goes out on Tour. Sometimes in his downtime, he’s far less disciplined. He has a different outlook now.”

You’d tend to think a 30-year-old, world-class athlete such as Johnson – a top talent with model looks, a beautiful fiancee and plenty of money and toys – might not have stress in his life, but Johnson did, and he had trouble releasing it. Johnson describes himself as laid-back and non-confrontational, and when things bothered him, he often kept it inside, to himself.

“My goal, and that’s kind of me and my game, I try not to get too emotional, whether it’s going really well or going really bad,” Johnson told Golfweek. “I’m just trying to stay focused. And I think I did that with life, too. I did the same thing, always try to stay even keel – which is great for golf, but it isn’t always great for life. Eventually, the s–t (stuff) just built up.

“Honestly, I knew I wasn’t happy, but until I started talking through it and working with some of the people that I did, I didn’t really realize it.

Dustin Johnson is ready for fatherhood and the PGA Tour!

So that’s been a huge help, a huge relief, understanding that.”

For months, he and Paulina have been renting a home at Sherwood Country Club in Southern California, where the two live close to her parents, hockey great Wayne Gretzky and actress Janet Jones. He’s had a nice daily routine at Sherwood. He and Paulina head to the Gretzky house for breakfast each morning, Dustin heads off to work out and then joins Wayne for golf at roughly 11:30. Johnson said his golf game is in nice shape; he tuned it last month with a quick flight to Las Vegas to visit his instructor, Butch Harmon. He’s even whispered to those close to him that he’ll be ready to win his first time out. Asked about the prediction, he laughs.

“I’ve been working hard on it, working hard on my fitness. I’m feeling good,” he said. “Golf is a funny game, so I can’t go out and say ‘I’m going to win this tournament,’ but I just want to compete and put myself in position to have a chance.”

And how does he assess his career to this point?

“To me, in my eyes, I’ve just had a mediocre career so far,” he said candidly. “I feel I should be doing a lot better than that. . . . Don’t want to be just mediocre; I want to be great.”

He also said he wants to be a role model to younger golfers, part of the reason he wanted to straighten up his life. At Sherwood, he has befriended the 11-year-old son of a member to whom Johnson began giving golf tips. Now he’s even helping the youngster with a fourth-grade project on inventions. The project involves experimenting with “ugly” golf balls and “happy” golf balls. The working title: “How Do Emotions Affect Your Golf Game?”

An interesting subject, especially considering the 30-year-old potential superstar who is helping produce it. Will Dustin Johnson ever fulfill his enormous potential? He seems to have come to the conclusion that the answer can be provided by only one man, the one he views in the mirror each morning. It’s a work in progress. Dustin is pleased with the steps he has made.

“DJ is such a good guy, good person, has such a big heart,” Winkle said.

“He’s imperfect, just like the rest of us, but he’s doing the work. It’s a really cool deal. Like Dustin says, ‘I think I’ve grown up.’ “

Source: Jeff Babineau

Pictures: Flash & Mel    Keith Allison  Secret in the Dirt

Thanks for reading – Dustin Johnson is ready for fatherhood and the PGA Tour!

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