Bumps Along the Way

By Rex HoggardSeptember 16, 2010, 1:19 am

The transformation of Dustin Johnson began in a Whistling Straits closet turned scoring hut with an eraser, of all implements.

Or maybe the epiphany came on Pebble Beach’s second hole on Sunday at this year’s national championship. Or a Las Vegas office in April with a tough decision, or a dark South Carolina byway in 2009 following a bad decision. Or was it another nondescript cubicle in Myrtle Beach, S.C., some six years before that?

If all great careers begin with an “ah ha” moment, Johnson’s ride to the top has been dotted with more turns and detours than a southern California “shortcut,” but the day he arrived on campus at Coastal Carolina in 2003 seems a logical jumping off point.

Allen Terrell, the Chanticleers’ golf coach who recruited Johnson, remembers 6 foot, 4 inches of talent that was filled with insecurity which manifested itself in an attitude that wasn’t always productive. What Terrell liked about his new charge, beyond his obvious physical gifts, was his ability to learn quickly, like the time he showed up late to a team meeting.

Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson suffered heartbreak at this year's PGA Championship. (Getty Images)

“He got three hours in the range picker listening to Allen’s life lessons,” Terrell recalled during a conversation in June. “He was never late again.”

From there Johnson blossomed, a Walker Cup and PGA Tour card (2007) were followed by a victory his rookie year (2008) and another just months later at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (2009).

But in the spring of 2009 there was a wrong turn in his rise when he was arrested in Myrtle Beach for driving under the influence.

“Eight years ago, however long ago, I couldn’t see myself being here,” Johnson said after his ’09 Pebble Beach victory. A little over two months later the rest of the golf world began to understand what he meant.

It’s a testament to Johnson’s drive and talent that he has climbed as high as he has, No. 12 in the world and among a half dozen contenders for the Player of the Year trophy heading into next week’s Tour Championship, having faced as many demons as he has in a life that has been less than charmed.

A little over a year later he followed that “bad” decision with perhaps the toughest choice of his short professional life when he approached Butch Harmon for swing advice. He’d worked with Terrell since coming to Coastal Carolina, and, luckily for Johnson, the coach said the two still talk regularly about the golf swing as well as life. But that didn’t make the decision any easier.

Many within “Camp Dustin” say that first meeting between prospect and swing professor in Harmon’s Las Vegas office set the tone for the rest of 2010.

“We sat down in Butch’s office and he put down pictures of Dustin and (Harmon’s father, Claude) at the top of their back swings,” Johnson’s caddie Bobby Brown recalled. “Claude was shut at the top, just like Dustin and (Harmon) said he wasn’t going to try to change that.”

What followed was an unforgettable summer. The highlight shows will remember the triple bogey on Pebble Beach’s second hole and final-round 82 at the U.S. Open, but all Johnson recalls from that fateful Sunday was that he put himself in the hunt to win a major championship.

Pete Dye’s penchant for poorly placed bunkers and Johnson using his eraser to add one will be the lasting collective snapshots from the PGA Championship, but Johnson’s revisionist history recalls only birdies on two of his last three holes of regulation.

It isn’t so much that he won last week’s BMW Championship, Tour titles seem like foregone conclusions at this point, it’s how quickly he processed mounting heartbreak and moved on.

Similarly, it’s not how he’s handled victory or defeat it’s how he’s co-opted the two into a singular bulletin board message – improve.

We’ve watched plenty of singular talents fall well short of potential, the byproduct of unrealistic expectations, wavering focus or both. But Johnson has won big, lost big and has never stopped thinking big.

Randy Myers, Johnson’s Sea Island (Ga.) based trainer, calls Johnson the next generation of golfer. During a different time Johnson would have played basketball, like his grandfather at South Carolina, or football or baseball.

“This guy is a race horse,” Myers said. “He’s the Randy Moss of golf. The Derek Jeter. They used to say Cal Ripken was too tall to play shortstop, now they are all 6-foot-3. Once you can teach these guys to be athletic, one of these guys will change the game.”

Earlier this year at the WGC-CA Championship at Doral Johnson underwent a sports performance assessment test. On a whim, Myers had his results compared to that of NBA players. His vertical leap was in the 70 percent range for an NBA player and his speed and strength were also comparable.

Whether Johnson is golf’s new professional prototype is a question for the next generation. Where he counts among the current crop, however, is starting to become more apparent.

Johnson is the only current twenty-something with more than three Tour titles and his BMW performance was impressive to the extreme. Consider Sunday’s card at Cog Hill, he led the field with a 313-yard driving average, contain your surprise. What may warrant a double-take is that the big man hit 10 of 14 tree-lined fairways. Not bad for a bomber.

During a quiet dinner last Tuesday in Chicago Myers noticed a change. “I saw this calm in him that I hadn’t seen in him for a long while,” he recalled. “We knew he had the physical capabilities, but the thing was his power under pressure. All these things finally started coming together.”

Perhaps his BMW breakthrough, an emotional accomplishment more so than a competitive eureka moment, will be remembered as the pivotal moment in his career. With Johnson, you can pick your epiphany, they all lead down the same road.

Getty Images

Angela hits Sergio in stride on field at Superdome

By Grill Room TeamDecember 18, 2017, 3:22 pm

Sergio and Angela Garcia's super 2017 keeps getting more ... Super ... Dome. (+1 awful blog lede.)

The couple started the year with Sergio's win at the Masters, then embarked on a whirlwind green jacket media tour, then kicked off El Clasico, then attended Wimbledon, then got married, then announced they were expecting their first child ...

2017 Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

And now, they're throwing each other passes on the New Orleans Saints' home turf at the Superdome.

Man, it must be so cool do that at the Silverdome. ... ... ... I'm sorry, it is the Superdome, brothers.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.