Connect with us

Opinion & Analysis

Balanced Johnson departs Augusta bedecked in green



Some (like me, for example) will say that there is a karmic balance in the universe. Not necessarily a force that binds all things together (that’d be Carl Spackler, or Obi-Wan Kenobi), but a way of evening certain things.

Until 2017, S-O-C-K-S was an infomercial aimed at teaching us Spanish. Then, overnight, it became the dragon slayer, the only thing capable of keeping Dustin Johnson from a Masters victory. After he withdrew from the 2017 Masters, Sergio Garcia stepped in with victory. Next came Patrick Reed, and then, Tiger Woods.

We feared that there was something Greg Norman-esque about DJ: built to win at Augusta, but victim of the fates and those pesky golf sprites. When the pandemic turned 2020 upside down, it may have rattled the pixies enough to put them off their game. With that wee opening, Johnson stepped in with as fine a Masters performance as we’ve seen. At last, the victory trophy, the green jacket, and the ownership of next year’s Champions Dinner menu were his.

Dustin Johnson will be remembered, in the beginning, for two characteristics: physique and shut face. At six-feet-four, he is not as tall as a golfer might be, but he was that tall before the other tall champions arrived. He was also a massive athlete, gifted in basketball and, let’s be honest, any other physical endeavor on which he might set his gaze. He also introduced the bowed-wrist and shut-clubface swing that ushered in the shallow your swing era of instruction. For him, each of these elements was innate. There was no anticipation of changing golf. When Johnson entered the world in 1984, by way of Columbia, South Carolina, he was who he would always be. The arrival of a brother a few years later gave him a foil and, eventually, the caddie with whom he would experience the vast majority of his tour successes.

This bit of backstory brings us to November of 2020. DJ reported to the National off a second-place tie in Houston. This fact, in retrospect, gives us a fair bit of evidence for why he played so well in Georgia. The Memorial Park course, courtesy of a Tom Doak-Mike Nuzzo redesign, played as much like an Alister MacKenzie course as Augusta does. What does that mean? Deception, visual distraction, playing away from trouble, and potential glory. Johnson did it for four days in Houston, and he came to Washington Rd. with confidence. When his driver, irons, and putter all arrived with him, the stage was set for a magnificent performance.

Much will be made of the play of the runners-up, should they earn a title of their own at the heralded brainchild of Bobby Jones. Cameron Smith played four rounds in the 60s—something that no one had achieved in all the playings of the Masters. Sungjae Im was equally impressive, matching Smith stroke for stroke, arriving at the same, 15-under par figure. Reaching the finishing line five strokes sooner was Johnson—a tournament scoring record (by two shots) among his laurels.

How he ascended the podium to the top shelf deserves our full attention.

Statistically, DJ was in orbit. He drove the ball into 80 percent of fairways on driving holes, nearly 10 percent better than the field. On position day, Saturday, he was a perfect 14 of 14 fairways hit. On Sunday, when the knuckles swell and the shoulders tense, Johnson found 10 of those suddenly-narrow lanes. Moving to greens in regulation, there was little surprise there. 83 percent of the time, he was putting for birdie or better. 60 of 72 putting surfaces offered him a chance to save a stroke or two, more than 15 percent better than his competitors. On the week, Johnson had two eagles and 20 birdies, and a pithy four bogies. From the sand, he was stellar. Off the tee, he was long. On the shortest of grass blades, he averaged 1.62 putts per hole, with a solitary three-putt coming in round two.

Let’s back up to the sand. Johnson wasn’t beached all week, to be clear. He was one for two in sandies, heading into Sunday. At the second hole, where he had twice made eagle, Johnson hit two successive shots that had us question whether he had the stuff to hold Saturday’s lead. A squirting hybrid from a downhill, second cut lie left him in the only impossible place on the hole: right of the greenside bunker, with a pin barely on the green. In other words, dead. His attempt at a floater came up weak, into the bunker. Understand, now, that said bunker has two segments, and DJ was in the shorter one. Not only did he have to stop the ball on a handkerchief, but he had to execute the shot over the other bunker tendril. Well, he did. He saved par, and marched off to victory.

For years, Johnson’s length earned first-sentence mention in summaries of his tournament prowess. As happened with Tiger, the competition caught up and surpassed. Here’s the thing: you cannot undo six-feet-four. You cannot change the physics of that swing. Johnson will always be plenty long. In 2015, he set to work on his wedge game, and won a U.S. Open in 2016. In 2019, he worked on his mental approach, steeling his demeanor and comportment to a greater extent than we had seen. This Masters victory is the culmination of that second phase of work.

Where to next? Many will surmise and predict, but we simply do not know. The form found this week may vanish come April. Or, with the pressure of winning abated, a second green jacket might follow on the elbows of the first. Leave the future to the ages. For this week, let’s revisit the Masters.Com storehouse of every shot anyone hit and marvel at the command of self, swing, and ball that Dustin Johnson exhibited for 72 consecutive holes.

When the snows fly in certain spots, these words will return to us

“It would mean a lot. What a great event; it’s the Masters, a major. I grew up right down the road. So this one would be very special to me.”

Your Reaction?
  • 15
  • LEGIT1
  • WOW1
  • LOL1
  • IDHT1
  • FLOP1
  • OB1
  • SHANK2

Ronald Montesano writes for from western New York. He dabbles in coaching golf and teaching Spanish, in addition to scribbling columns on all aspects of golf, from apparel to architecture, from equipment to travel. Follow Ronald on Twitter at @buffalogolfer.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Opinion & Analysis

The future of club fitting is going virtual



Thanks to technology, you can buy everything from custom-made suits to orthotics online without ever walking into a store or working in person with an expert.

Now, with the help of video and launch monitors, along with a deeper understanding of dynamics than ever before, club fitting is quickly going virtual too, and it’s helping golfers find better equipment faster!

What really took so long?

The real advancements started in the coaching world around a decade ago. What used to require heavy cameras and tripods now simply requires a phone and you have a high-definition slow-motion video that can be sent around the world in a matter of seconds.

Beyond video, modern launch monitors and their ability to capture data have quickly turned a guessing game of “maybe this will work” into a precision step-by-step process of elimination to optimize. When you combine video and launch monitor elements with an understanding of club fitting principles and basic biomechanics, you have the ability to quickly evaluate a golfer’s equipment and make recommendations to help them play better golf.

The benefits of virtual fitting

  • Any golfer with a phone and access to a launch monitor can get high-level recommendations from a qualified fitter.
  • Time and cost-saving to and from a fitter. (This seems obvious, but one of the reasons I personally receive so many questions about club fitting is because those reaching out don’t have access to fitting facilities within a reasonable drive)
  • It’s an opportunity to get a better understanding our your equipment from an expert.

How virtual fittings really work

The key element of a virtual fitting is the deep understanding of the available products to the consumer. On an OEM level, line segmentation makes this fairly straightforward, but it becomes slightly more difficult for brand-agnostic fitters that have so many brands to work with, but it also shows their depth of knowledge and experience.

It’s from this depth of knowledge and through an interview that a fitter can help analyze strengths and weaknesses in a player’s game and use their current clubs as a starting point for building a new set—then the video and launch monitor data comes in.

But it can quickly go very high level…

One of the fastest emerging advancements in this whole process is personalized round tracking data from companies like Arccos, which gives golfers the ability to look at their data without personal bias. This allows the golfer along with any member of their “team” to get an honest assessment of where improvements can be found. The reason this is so helpful is that golfers of all skill levels often have a difficult time being critical about their own games or don’t even really understand where they are losing shots.

It’s like having a club-fitter or coach follow you around for 10 rounds of golf or more—what was once only something available to the super-elite is now sitting in your pocket. All of this comes together and boom, you have recommendations for your new clubs.

Current limitations

We can’t talk about all the benefits without pointing out some of the potential limitations of virtual club fittings, the biggest being the human element that is almost impossible to replicate by phone or through video chat.

The other key factor is how a player interprets feel, and when speaking with an experienced fitter recently while conducting a “trial fitting” the biggest discussion point was how to communicate with golfers about what they feel in their current clubs. Video and data can help draw some quick conclusions but what a player perceives is still important and this is where the conversation and interview process is vital.

Who is offering virtual club fittings?

There are a lot of companies offering virtual fittings or fitting consultations over the phone. One of the biggest programs is from Ping and their Tele-Fitting process, but other companies like TaylorMade and PXG also have this service available to golfers looking for new equipment.

Smaller direct-to-consumer brands like New level, Sub 70, and Haywood Golf have offered these services since their inception as a way to work with consumers who had limited experience with their products but wanted to opportunity to get the most out of their gear and their growth has proven this model to work.

Your Reaction?
  • 12
  • LEGIT2
  • WOW2
  • LOL1
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP5
  • OB5
  • SHANK37

Continue Reading

Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Why wedge mastery is so elusive



I have conducted numerous surveys of golfers over my 40-year golf industry career, because I have always believed that if you want to know what people are thinking, you simply have to ask them.

As a gearhead for wedges and a wedge designer over the past 30 years, most of my research and analysis is focused on these short-range scoring clubs and how golfers use them. What this research continually tells me is that most golfers—regardless of handicap–consider the wedges the hardest clubs in the bag to master. That’s because they are. I would even go so far as to say that the difficulty of attaining mastery even extends to the best players in the world.

Watching the Genesis Open this past weekend, for example, it seemed like these guys were hitting wedge approaches on nearly every hole. And while there were certainly many shots that covered the flag—like Max Homa’s approach on 18–there were also a great number that came up woefully short. Not what you would expect when a top-tier tour professional has a sand or gap wedge in their hands.

The simple fact is that wedges are the most difficult clubs in our bags with which to attain consistent shotmaking mastery, and that is because of the sheer design of the clubhead itself. For clarity of this article, I’m talking about those full- or near full-swing wedge shots, not the vast variety of short greenside shots we all face every round. To get mastery of those shots (like the tour pros exhibit every week), you simply have to spend lots of time hitting lots of shots, experimenting and exploring different techniques. There are no shortcuts to a deadly short game.

But today I’m talking about those prime opportunities to score, when you have a full- or near-full swing wedge into a par-five or short par four. We should live for those moments, but all too often we find ourselves disappointed in the outcome.

The good news is that’s not always all your fault.

First of all, you must understand that every wedge shot is, in effect, a glancing blow to the ball because of the loft involved. With 50 to 60 degrees of loft—or even 45 to 48 degrees with a pitching wedge—the loft of the club is such that the ball is given somewhat of a glancing blow. That demands a golf swing with a much higher degree of precision in the strike than say, an 8-iron shot.

I have always believed that most golfers can improve their wedge play by making a slower-paced swing than you might with a longer iron. This allows you to be more precise in making sure that your hands lead the clubhead through impact, which is a must when you have a wedge in your hands. Without getting into too much detail, the heavier, stiffer shaft in most wedges does not allow this club to load and unload in the downswing, so the most common error is for the clubhead to get ahead of the hands before impact, thereby adding loft and aggravating this glancing blow. I hope that makes sense.
The other aspect of wedge design that makes consistent wedge distance so elusive is the distribution of the mass around the clubhead. This illustration of a typical tour design wedge allows me to show you something I have seen time and again in robotic testing of various wedges.

Because all the mass is along the bottom of the clubhead, the ideal impact point is low in the face (A), so that most of the mass is behind the ball. Tour players are good at this, but most recreational golfers whose wedges I’ve examined have a wear pattern at least 2-4 grooves higher on the club than I see on tour players’ wedges.

So, why is this so important?

Understand that every golf club has a single “sweet spot”–that pinpoint place where the smash factor is optimized—where clubhead speed translates to ball speed at the highest efficiency. On almost all wedges, that spot is very low on the clubhead, as indicated by the “A” arrow here, and robotic testing reveals that smash factor to be in the range of 1.16-1.18, meaning the ball speed is 16-18% higher than the clubhead speed.

To put that in perspective, smash factor on drivers can be as high as 1.55 or even a bit more, and it’s barely below that in your modern game improvement 7-iron. The fact is—wedges are just not as efficient in this measure, primarily because of the glancing blow I mentioned earlier.

But–and here’s the kicker–if you move impact up the face of a wedge just half to five-eights of an inch from the typical recreational golfer’s impact point, as indicated by the “B” arrow, smash factor on ‘tour design’ wedges can be reduced to as low as 0.92 to 0.95. That costs you 40 to 60 feet on a 90-yard wedge shot . . . because you missed “perfect” by a half-inch or less!

So, that shot you know all too well—the ball sitting up and caught a bit high in the face—is going fall in the front bunker or worse. That result is not all your fault. The reduced distance is a function of the diminished smash factor of the wedge head itself.

That same half-inch miss with your driver or even your game-improvement 7-iron is hardly noticeable.

Your Reaction?
  • 89
  • LEGIT15
  • WOW7
  • LOL3
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK1

Continue Reading

Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Breakthrough mental tools to play the golf of your dreams



Incredibly important talk! A must listen to the words of Dr. Karl Morris, ham-and-egging with the golf imperfections trio. Like listening to top athletes around a campfire. This talk will helps all ages and skills in any sport.



Your Reaction?
  • 1
  • LEGIT1
  • WOW1
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK3

Continue Reading