Dustin Johnson has added brains to brawn in pursuit of Masters glory, says Brandel Chamblee

James Corrigan
The Telegraph
Dustin Johnson at the WGC Dell World Matchplay which he won - AP
Dustin Johnson at the WGC Dell World Matchplay which he won - AP

And still the barbs come. Dustin Johnson, the uncomplicated golfer about whom one US columnist once wrote “he is so dense, light bends around him”, may have proved himself to be a very dominant world No 1 and the outright favourite for this week’s Masters, but even one of his own coaches has referred to him as “Forrest Gump”.

Claude Harmon, son of Butch, was no doubt joking when comparing Johnson to the Tom Hanks movie character who through his athletic prowess unwittingly shapes some of history’s major events, but he still sold his man short. As did Billy Horschel, Johnson’s fellow PGA Tour pro, who once declared him as playing “caveman golf”.

The notion is that Johnson, all 6ft 4in and 14st of him, just gets up and rips it, with little thought and even less care about the consequences. But anyone who has watched him win three titles from his last three starts will realise the vast holes in this theory.

Brandel Chamblee, the Golf Channel analyst, certainly does, and as one of the true intellectuals in the game, he should be listened to. Just because Johnson, 32, fails to talk a clever game in the media centres, does not mean he does not produce one on the fairways.

“I think there is a cerebral element to what Dustin Johnson does,” Chamblee told The Sunday Telegraph. “There’s an ability for him to take a look at the lay of the land and immediately imagine the shot that’s required to fit whatever pin position, and then make the necessary changes in his swing to affect it. And that’s an athletic genius which is really underrated.

<span>Dustin Johnson's win at the WGC World Matchplay was his third in three starts</span> <span>Credit: Getty Images </span>
Dustin Johnson's win at the WGC World Matchplay was his third in three starts Credit: Getty Images

“No, he, may not be able to articulate that to the degree everybody wants him to, but I think he has a gift. And it is not just about raw talent because I could list 10 players who have enough raw talent. Dustin has more than that. He has pretty much all the nuances of the game.”

That became obvious when seeing Johnson repel the fightback of young Jon Rahm in last Sunday’s Match Play final in Austin where he became the first player – Tiger Woods, included – to win all four World Golf Championships events.

Apart from perhaps a slight weakness out of bunkers, Johnson has, under the Harmons, developed all the shots and that complete armoury allows him, with his extraordinary launching powers, to plot a still destructive but thoughtful route. And that could be vital as he tries to add to his US Open title of 2016.

“If you look at what Dustin has to do at Augusta, he’s a different player now than he was even the last two years when he finished sixth and fourth, Chamblee said.

<span>Dustin Johnson has recorded consecutive top-10 finishes at Augusta National</span> <span>Credit: AFP </span>
Dustin Johnson has recorded consecutive top-10 finishes at Augusta National Credit: AFP

“He is able control that draw around the corner at the second and has that fade, which he can employ at the fourth, where he has struggled before. And his wedge game, which used to be his undoing, is now his strength. He has improved dramatically in that area.

“And all of those little ways in which Dustin has changed and sharpened his game, I think are just going to put him right where he needs to be early on in this championship.

“The average winner over the last 20 years has been well inside the top 10 after the first round and well inside the top five after the second round. So Dustin has to get in there from the off and I suspect he will. If he can get around Augusta without tripping himself up, I don’t see anyone being able to beat him.”

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