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LIV Golf’s Dustin Johnson talks Masters prep, getting ready for Augusta National

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Dustin Johnson, Tiger Woods, 2020 Masters
Masters champion Tiger Woods places the green jacket on Dustin Johnson following his 2020 victory. | Photo by Augusta National via Getty Images

Two-time major champion Dustin Johnson provided updates on the state of his game before he returns to Augusta National.

Dustin Johnson obliterated Augusta National in the fall of 2020 en route to his maiden Masters title.

Postponed to the fall because of COVID-19, that year’s Masters saw incredibly low scores due to the soft autumn conditions. But that should not diminish the fact that Johnson easily waltzed around golf’s hallowed ground.

He finished at 20-under par, five shots ahead of Cameron Smith and Sungjae Im. Only three other players finished 10-under or better, proving Johnson’s accomplishments as both historic and extraordinary.

Since then, Johnson went to LIV Golf, where he has won three times. His Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) has consequently plummeted, but that does not mean much. Johnson is still a top player in the sport; few can match his talent when he is on.

Dustin Johnson, Masters Photo by Augusta National/Getty Images
Dustin Johnson poses with the green jacket after winning the 2020 Masters.

As such, the former Coastal Carolina Chanticleer has the game to contend once again at this year’s Masters. It should surprise nobody if he goes on to win his second green jacket.

Plus, the two-time major winner feels close to replicating the success he had in 2020.

“Obviously, I was playing very well, and you know that week I played very well all four days, but I see signs of it,” Johnson said during a recent call with members of the media.

“I feel like the game is trending in that direction. Am I exactly there? It’ll be hard to get back to as good as I played that week. But am I playing well enough now that I can have a week like that? Absolutely.”

Like Rory McIlroy, Johnson has long been known as an exquisite driver of the golf ball. He hits it a country mile, often leaving himself shorter approach shots, where he lends his focus during practice.

“I always spend a lot of time working on my wedges,” Johnson added.

“[My wedges] haven’t been as sharp as they are when I’m playing really well. I spend a lot of my time on that. But you know, obviously, still have to work on all facets of the game.”

Long known as a ball-striker’s golf course, Augusta National prioritizes wedge play. The undulating greens and tucked pin positions leave little margin for error, but typically, whoever has the best week with their irons and wedges finds themselves in the mix on the back nine on Sunday.

Dustin Johnson, The Masters Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Dustin Johnson hugs his caddy, his brother Austin, after winning the 2020 Masters.

That was the case for Johnson in 2020, as he took advantage of the opportunities he gave himself thanks to his magnificent performance off the tee.

But last year, Johnson struggled at the 2023 Masters, won by Jon Rahm.

After opening with rounds of 71 and 72, Johnson completely faded over the weekend—a weekend marred by disastrous weather that led to a marathon final day, on which the leaders played 29 holes.

“I didn’t play near as well as I’d like to,” Johnson said.

“But this year, obviously getting off to a little bit better start [will help]. I feel like the game’s in really good form. To be honest, I am putting in a little more work. I just wasn’t pleased with my results. Putting in the effort, I think, is the biggest thing. I just wasn’t happy with the way I played. So I’m working a little bit harder this year.”

Johnson plans to take a scouting trip to Augusta National before LIV Golf heads to the Blue Monster at Doral for its Miami event.

But since LIV Golf has a much more limited schedule than the PGA Tour, Johnson has more time to train and practice.

“I train the same all year long. In the offseason, you might go a little bit more heavy,” Johnson said.

“You know, it’s nice being home. And then obviously, [my trainer] travels with me pretty much everywhere. So, we train on the road, just like we do at home, for the most part. It is nice, though, to be able to have time to [train]. There are certain parts of the body that need extra attention, to put the work in.”

Dustin Johnson, LIV Golf, Hong Kong Getty Images
Dustin Johnson most recently played at a LIV Golf event in Hong Kong.

Of course, the rise of LIV Golf has left professional golf mired by conflict, as the world’s best players now compete on separate circuits. But now, like in 2023, The Masters serves as the first tournament of the year in which players from LIV and the PGA Tour play side-by-side.

The three other majors are the only other tournaments of the year in which this is the case.

Some say that has elevated the aura of the majors, but Johnson disagrees. He continues to view golf’s greatest events the same as he always has.

“It’s still the same. They’re still the four events that you want to win,” Johnson said.

“I want to win every golf tournament that I’m playing in. Obviously, it doesn’t happen, and it never will. But the majors are just... They’re always going to be the pinnacle of the sport.”

Aside from his U.S. Open triumph at Oakmont in 2016 and his Masters victory in 2020, the pinnacle of Johnson’s career came during the spring of 2017, when he won three times leading up to the 2017 Masters.

If you recall, Johnson fell down a set of stairs and injured his back, forcing the then-number-one ranked player in the world to withdraw. He looked unstoppable before he hurt himself, leading many to ask, what if?

“I don’t really think about it that much other than I do look back at [my swing] I’ve got ‘cause I was working with [renowned swing coach] Butch [Harmon] at that time,” Johnson said.

“So he has videos and stuff about my swing. And you know I had fantastic prep going into that week. So we definitely look at the swing from that time, kind of compare it, and try to get back to that form. We use it because we know how well I was playing at that point. But yeah, no, I don’t really think about it too much.”

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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