Dustin Johnson has unfinished business in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
A year ago, he competed at the 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minnesota, for the first time and shot an opening-round 78. He withdrew after the round citing stiffness in his back, one week after posting a pair of 80s at The Memorial.
It was a low point for Johnson that proceeded a stellar run of good form that included shooting 30 under a month later in winning the Northern Trust. Then he captured the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup and topped it all off slipping into a Green Jacket at Augusta National in November.
“From here I went home and practiced and got the game in good form,” Johnson explained during his pre-tournament press conference ahead of this week’s 3M Open. “Yeah, obviously went on a great run there. I feel like the game is really close to doing that again.”
Johnson has notched six top-10 finishes so far this season and is coming off a T-8 at the British Open last week. He was in the mix after 36 holes, but blamed a seven-hole stretch on Saturday for costing him from being more than a peripheral figure in the battle for the Claret Jug.
In photos: Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky and family, through the years
Johnson flew on a chartered flight to Minnesota on Sunday and took Monday off to rest. He’s here, in part, because last year’s hiccup left a bad taste in his mouth. It also didn’t hurt the tournament’s chances of landing the World No. 2 that he withdrew his name from consideration for the U.S. Olympics men’s golf team. That certainly improved the odds that he would make a return visit to the 3M Open this year, but what made the decision an easy one for him?
“It’s a golf course that I felt like it fit my game pretty well,” he said.
Johnson’s game has sputtered since his dominating win at the 2020 Masters. Instead of his first major title since the 2016 U.S. Open opening the floodgates to more major glory, he missed the cut at the Masters in April and the PGA in his home state of South Carolina in May and shot 74 on Sunday to finish T-19 at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in June. He also went seven events between top-10 finishes, seemingly an eternity for him, and once again lost the World No. 1 ranking to Jon Rahm. But just as shooting 78 a year ago didn’t slow Johnson down, he’s convinced better golf is right around the corner.
“Things are starting to turn around a little bit. I felt like I haven’t had a great season so far, but I feel like the game, it’s starting to come back into form,” he said. “I feel like the iron and wedge play is what I just haven’t been as sharp with. That’s starting to come around.”
Wedge play in particular is the part of Johnson’s game he worked on to raise it to the next level. He credited his future father-in-law Wayne Gretzky, the hockey legend and father of Johnson’s fiancée Paulina, with instilling in him the importance of hard work.
Photos: Dustin Johnson and Wayne Gretzky on the golf course
“Listening to the stories of how hard he used to work, he worked harder than everyone else. Obviously he had a lot of talent and all that, but he put in the work,” Johnson said. “Just because you have the talent doesn’t mean you’re going to be good unless you put in the work and you work as hard if not harder than everyone else.”
Gretzky, in fact, may have been one of the most influential figures in helping Johnson fulfill his great promise.
“I feel like over the past five or six years I’ve definitely kind of stepped up the way I go about things, how I work and training on and off the golf course,” Johnson said. “Yeah, he’s definitely been an influence and it’s definitely helped.”
Johnson is scheduled to tee off on Thursday in one of the featured groups at 8:23 a.m. ET with Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen.