How Wayne Gretzky helped Masters champion Dustin Johnson become world No.1

Dustin Johnson is congratulated by his fiancee Pauline Gretzky after winning the Masters last November
(Image: Getty Images)

He now has a long-term relationship and two sons with Instagram star Paulina Gretzky – and the work ethic of his father-in-law and ice hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky.

“That time off was the greatest thing to ever happen in his life,” said the NHL legend.

“I’m not some guru or anything like that for Dustin. I’ve encouraged him to raise the bar, sure, to set higher goals, and I’ve talked to him about the commitment to pay the price to be the best. He has become a real specimen.

“Everyone always knew he had the ability but he has now matured to the point where he gets mad at himself if he doesn't win.”

Wayne Gretzky was nicknamed the Great One during his ice hockey career

DJ showed rare emotion when he broke down in tears after winning the November Masters alongside his brother and caddie Austin with a record score of 20-under par. He has a high golf IQ but it is fair to say he does not talk like Lee Trevino. US sports writer Rick Reilly once claimed that the South Carolinian was “so dense, light bends around him.” His tale of redemption is a great story – it is just better if someone else tells it.

Golf Channel analyst Notah Begay said: “He doesn't get enough credit for the work he has done and for winning every year on the PGA Tour.

“He doesn't chase the next shiny object coming down the stream. You hear about Rory getting sucked into this pursuit of distance because of Bryson. But DJ has just kept playing DJ golf.”

Johnson won his first Major at the 2016 US Open a year after three-putting from 12 feet on the final green to hand the title to Jordan Spieth. But he has a rare ability to shrug off disappointment.

His former coach Butch Harmon said: “He has the best demeanour in golf – nothing bothers him. He is like a duck – the water just rolls his back – which is a great asset to have in this game.”

Dustin Johnson set a new Masters record with a score of 20-under par in November
(Image: Getty Images)

Scotland No.1 Bob MacIntyre, who halved his match with the world No.1 at last month's WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, said: “You don't appreciate it until you see him in the flesh, up close and personal. If I hit a really bad shot, I am like: 'Oh no, why now?' But he doesn't. Where his ball goes, his ball goes, and he deals with it from there. I can learn from that.”

His approach to Augusta is also a lesson. After adding deadly wedge play to his awesome driving, he has finished in the top 10 in his last five appearances and played his last 15 rounds under par.

In his pre-tournament press conference, Johnson knew the names of the three men who had retained the Green Jacket – and why it is so difficult to do.

“It's just very tough to win once, and especially multiple times,” he said.

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