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“On-Course Quirks and Giving Back To Those In Need” With Dustin Johnson

February 12, 2020

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Trottie brings out a side of Dustin Johnson you rarely see, as he discusses some of his on-course quirks and his support of Hurricane Dorian relief efforts.

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Trottie: Okay. Podcasters, your host, Chris Trott from the global sports marketing team, and I've finally been let loose and landed our Team TaylorMade flagship guy, longstanding staff player, an all round rock solid icon of the modern professional game, Dustin Johnson, welcome to the team TaylorMade podcast.

DJ: Thank you. I appreciate you having me.

Trottie: Knee Op. How are you feeling? Let's cover that first things first.

DJ: Feeling good. Everything's gone very well with the knee surgery, been doing rehab now for eight weeks, so I'm right where I'm supposed to be. Maybe even a little ahead of where I should be, so everything's good, cleared to hit, clear to do pretty much everything I want, so yeah, it's all good.

Trottie: And this is a standard thing for you. I mean, you said you'd gone through this before, even the same, this operation that you've had and the recovery is all the standard procedure.

DJ: Yeah, I had the same operation, a little different spots on my right knee, eight years ago. So yeah, I've been through it before. It's a slow process. So you know, most important parts of the very beginning. Just, making sure you don't do too much, making sure you know, you keep your leg, got to keep it elevated and ice it at all times. And just to let it heal just cause where they had to scope, the spot that it is, it's very important to do that. And then, now it's just all about training, getting the strength back, getting the speed back, getting the muscles all firing, like they should and you know, but I'm very pleased with where it's at right now. Obviously I got four weeks until the hero and yeah, I mean the golf, the golf game, haven't practiced a ton but the swing feels good, I've practiced kind of sporadically, the last few weeks. But you know, now since I'm four weeks out, I'll really start ramping up the practice and starting to get back into it,

Trottie: it was good to see you disciplined hitting the shots earlier when the product was unveiled. SIM driver was out there and you are still recording the best ball speed, the best numbers, the best distances. Obviously Rory kept stepping in and making you step up. But to me as the outsider, it just looked like everything was flowing as is.

DJ: I still got it.

Trottie: 100%. I mean we four weeks left there could be even more speed.

DJ: Yeah, no, I mean obviously I've, I've been training a lot, haven't practiced but I have been training so you know, it's, I have trained so I've cut my body in good shape other than I've gained a little bit of weight just cause I can't do any cardio. But that'll, I'll fix that here in the next four weeks. But you know, I've put on a lot of mass and, I'm very pleased with where my body's at and you know, leading into the kind of, for me the start of the season, which will be the hero and the president's cup and my first tour event will be Hawaii.

Trottie: When you hit SIM for the first time and shape in motion, you feel it, you see it, you see the speed out the gate. Does that give you the thought, you know when I'm fully back, this could be even quicker again.

DJ: Yeah, I mean I definitely think, my speed would get a little faster and I was very pleased with what I saw this morning on the range hitting the sound and the driver, the shape of the shots, the feel and definitely the speed. My swing speed was pretty high even though I feel like I still, I'm not 100% but you know, I was still getting very good distance. Very good ball speed, very good carry numbers. And my swing speed was pretty high, so I'm very pleased with where everything is today and it will get better.

Trottie: When we look at these shoots and we put you guys in a competitive environment like that, you look at Rory and yourself and in all fairness, I recognize as a big golf fan sitting there, I'm witnessing the two best drivers in the golf game, nuke it down that range. When you watch him here, he's obviously more of a slight fellow than you are. What do you, do you, is there anything, I know you want to beat him, I get that and I know you've got the different leavers and I watch you hit it and you do hit it out there, but is there anything that you look in like wow, how's this little guy hit that so much speed.

DJ: Well yeah, obviously I've been playing against Rory for a long time now and he's an unbelievable player and, but yes, you, you do. You know, I do watch him and, for like you said, I mean, he's not, I mean, he's fit, he's very fit, but you know, he's not super tall or anything like that. But I mean he, he generates a ton of speed and hits it a long way. And you know, when we're out there, even last year when I was healthy, he was healthy and we were hitting, we were still neck and neck. Yeah, I barely, barely beat him. But yeah, I mean it's very impressive to see, obviously we swing it differently.

There's a lot of things that are probably very similar, through impact and, but yeah, I mean it's, it's definitely fun to watch. I mean, he's a very good driver of the golf ball. Little different shape than I hit. I mean, hits kind of a high, high drawl. It doesn't really curve a lot though. I mean, it's pretty straight, but it's a fairly high ball but if I want to hit one far, I mean I, I hit it up in there too. But yeah, I mean it's fun to watch him hit it.

Trottie: You come to these shoots and you know, we, you say now you're big part of Team TaylorMade, you've been with us for so long, we've all been around you, we're all very comfortable in your presence and it feels vice versa. What's changed at the shoots for you over the years? Obviously, the product's changed, but what about your role in the shoot going from, you were the Matt Wolff and the Morikawa and now like I say, I don't, I don't throw it out there lightly - you're our flagship guy. How does that feel coming to a photo shoot?

DJ: Yeah, I mean it's, it's definitely a play, a different role. But you know, it's, it's fun to be out here with the, with the younger kids and you know, obviously they're very talented, very good players, Wolff's got a lot of speed, Morikawa still, he may get speed and you know, he's a great player. So, just to be able to spend some time with them, get to know him a little bit better. Wolff, I've played some golf with out at Sherwood and you know, I knew him before he was on tour more. Morikawa, haven't really spent any time with so just to just spend some time with them, I mean it's, it's great and obviously, you know what we do like this morning, hitting balls and then, hitting wedges and putting and all this stuff just to, to be around them, to hear how they think, how they, what they're, looking at when they're hitting a driver and you know, how they decipher stuff. It's interesting because you know, you learn, everybody does it a little bit differently, but you can always learn stuff from, from good players and you know, just listening to them, watching them, how they do things. It's, a lot of fun and I enjoy it.

Trottie: Yeah, it's cool to see you embrace that role. I saw that you're getting on very well with Wolffie and to see that growing, it's something that could be good and sadly for a European it could be something that we could see in a ryder cup. So we'll move on. That's not something I want to see.

DJ: Yeah, well, unfortunately.

Trottie: It's going to happen.

DJ: You will see it and you know, hopefully, hopefully you don't like it.

Trottie: Yeah. Hopefully it's a blue number and not red,

DJ: But lately it hasn't been that way.

Trottie: Huh. So 2019 another super consistent season. Becoming the fourth player to win 12 consecutive years on the PGA tour, joining Nicklaus Palmer, Woods, amazing names that I throw out there. I run through a year of having a look at it, thinking things that I want to ask you and two second place finishes, Masters and the PGA. They stand out for me and I remember watching that PGA and just clutch in the moment. Absolute clutch. What do you take from 2019 what do you take from me throwing out like Nicklaus Palmer, Woods, you're in there and then 2019 is a season?

DJ: It was okay. I'm not, not very pleased with it. Yes it was. It was pretty, it was good. You know, I had a big one at Mexico, contended in the Masters in the PGA didn't play great in the US open or the British. But you know, for me it just wasn't consistent enough. I didn't win enough, to my standards. But for me it was more, I felt like the game was there, I was playing well enough to win more, playing well enough to contend more in the majors. I felt like even though maybe the stats didn't show up, my putting stats, for me I didn't feel like I was putting well enough, even though I was working on it very hard. But you know the more I look back at it, I didn't drive it as well this past year. Obviously in the tournaments I was playing well and I drove it really good. The PGA, I drove it very nicely on a big golf course where the fairways aren't very wide and you had to hit the fairways there, I felt like I hit a lot of really clutch drives that I had to hit. But all in all for a season, I wasn't pleased with my driving. Yeah, I had good days and I had good tournaments where I was driving it in the fairway. But the shape of the shots weren't to my liking. I wasn't hitting it consistently enough. And you know, when I don't feel like I'm driving it well then obviously eventually it gets frustrating and it starts to wear off into the rest of my game and it puts more pressure on the rest of your game, whether it's on the putter or the wedges or the irons.

So for me it was just, it was a bit of struggle it was a bit frustrating, all year, Augusta on the weekend I played unbelievable. I hit so many good putts and you know, it was like nothing would go in. So it was a little bit frustrating. The same at the PGA, sitting there on 16 I hit a great drive, I hit a great second shot, hit a great chip shot, hit a great putt and made an easy five. And you know, I felt like I hit four really good shots and I'll make a five, you know, it was just, just things like that that, that were really frustrating where, if I par that hole, I'll put a lot more pressure on Brooks coming down the stretch and you know, probably going into a playoff, but it was just little things that throughout the year that, I felt like just wasn't really sharp all year.

Trottie: But we're talking one or two or five shots throughout a season had been different and the outcome would be different. And you've still had a stellar season, so how do you change next year? Is it all in the driver? Look if I get just a few things mentally, so my driver's good, I'm off, I'm ready to go.

DJ: For me, a lot of it starts with the driver cause obviously you hit the driver. For me, I mean I hit a lot of drivers whether you know short, long course I'm still hitting the driver a lot. But if, if that's going correctly, if I'm not manipulating this, it works down through the game where this year it wasn't more the driver, I felt like I was manipulating the driver swing. So when I was driving it really good, my irons weren't as sharp when I was, hitting my irons really well, my driver wasn't as sharp so there was a disconnect somewhere in there. And that was the reason that I was a little more frustrated this year and I don't feel like I was as good as I should have been.

Trottie: So Bucky Coe is a guy, a good player, works TaylorMade in R and D, we had him on the podcast last season and he was in Memphis and he said one of the key guys to speak to is you, he likes to talk to you specifically about paint lines and he comes to you to get feedback on that. How do you think we did on the paint lines on the SIM?

DJ: It's very good. Very, very straight. You know, I feel like we've had some really good ones and we've had some that have not been good. And last year I, I struggled with the paint line and now that's a big deal for me. Whether, I mean the driver was great, but when-

Trottie: and it doesn't sit, you can't get comfy.

DJ: Right. And so it was, I understand why they do stuff and you know, they explain it to me and so I get it. But you know, so we worked in the later part of the year, obviously it was way later in the year, but worked on some paint lines, even just with a marker on the club. And it helped. But you know, at that point I had a couple of tournaments left. And so paint line for me is very important, I think the look of a club is important to everyone. If it doesn't look good to you, doesn't matter how it performs this, you're still going to struggle with it.

Trottie: How important is the history with the golf club, because the fairway woods, you've got V steel in them and I believe as an amateur you played a V steel. Am I right in that?

DJ: I did. I played it in college.

Trottie: Good, I'm telling you my research still works for me, but V steel going through the turf. The interaction, was that something you were happy to see back in there?

DJ: As long as it performs? Yes, I'll love to see it back in there. So I feel like obviously our company is the best company in golf and we always have the best woods and you know, everyone makes pretty good irons. But I feel like we always have the best drivers, fairway woods of any company out there. And so I've always been very pleased with that. And, hitting the woods this morning on the range, I was very happy with the three wood, the five wood, they perform great and obviously it's the first one we've hit. So maybe tweak a few things on them. But you know, for first coming out first swings with them, I felt like they were very good and perform very well.

Trottie: I think you're a modern day, true professional. You know, again, I say it at the top, but we look at it and it's like the golf bag has to be a certain way. The alignment stick has to be a certain color. The putter cover, even when we bring out different covers for tournaments, it's got to be a certain way to look at the clubs, got to be a certain way. And initially I was like, geez, what's this guy dude? Like really? But I kind of get it now it's for you. You've got to show up a certain way. Right? And the club has to look a certain way. Is that fair to say about you as a professional?

DJ: Yes, absolutely. My golf bag has to be exactly how I like it or it bothers me and you know, it's, it's funny, like a putter cover, if it doesn't match, I won't use it. And it's just how I am. I don't know, it just drives me crazy, looking at my bag and seeing that, doesn't make one bit of difference, but I don't like it when I look over at my bag so I won't use it. And so, I mean that's kind of with everything in my bag: clubs, if something doesn't look right, I'm not going to use it.

Trottie: No, I was cool with it. It's just when we brought all the putter covers out last year, I was like, really? Dustin said that. And then obviously you get to learn. It's a big deal. And I hear white tee pegs as well. They've got to be white tee pegs, right?

DJ: Yeah, I don't, it's just-

Trottie: It's just another thing.

DJ: Yeah, it's just, a quirk that I have. I got to have white tees. I don't know what it is.

Trottie: So I think you knew that I was going to go here, but this partly brings me to deal with what our little relationship we have going on over putters. I mean you knew I was going to go there cause you work the crap out of me when it comes to putters. So I need to know, I must be rubbish at what I'm doing. I mean you're keeping me in a job here. You got to help me out here? I got to find a look. I got to find where it's going. So on that and on the topic of putters you've seen truss, right? Have you seen it already? Huh?

DJ: I have.

Trottie: Give me some music to my ears. Answer me honestly. Well how do you think, what do you think of the look? It's a blade now if you want to go there?

DJ: Right? No, I've obviously, when you first pull it out you're like okay this looks kind of funky. But when you, when you start getting into the technology, and the reason for it, it makes a lot of sense. And then when you start putting with it, you can feel it and you can see that yes, it's a lot more stable than a normal blade and it still has roughly the same look. You can't see the actual truss or whatever it is when you're looking down on it. And the performance of it's been great. Obviously I've, maybe hit 10 putts with each one, but I can see how it works and I can tell the difference. And I think it's a very good, different approach to a putter where you can keep the same look, but then you get some technology behind it. So I think it's going to work very good in the golf world.

Trottie: Are you going to keep me busy with that?

DJ: Probably.

Trottie: Definitely.

DJ: Don't I usually?

Trottie: 100%.

DJ: Well hopefully, my goal this year is to start the year with a putter and finish the year with it. Unless someone steals it.

Trottie: If it's not the one I want you in, I'll probably steal it. So is there anything though in the psyche, putting, people can get stale as well? Is there anything in there that like it's nice to change it up?

DJ: Well, so I like to try stuff. I do, I like, when we have new stuff or new putters, I love trying them and sometimes it's good to look at something different for a little bit. But generally I go back to everything that was in my bag originally. I'm still a golf nerd. I like all the new equipment. I like the new putters, I like and I like trying them all just to see what, you're always trying to find something better than what you got. But generally I tend to revert back to what I was previously using. But you know, I think this new technology and these putters are, cause I've been trying for a while to go back to my blade, but I just don't get the-

Trottie: release.

DJ: Well no, I just don't get the consistency with it that I do with the spider or a mallet. So it's been hard for me to switch when I don't feel like it's better.

Trottie: When I leave these tournaments, and Keith who I know is a good friend of yours, the VP of tour operations, he and I talk and I think about the conversations, believe it or not, you and I had about putters and I relay it a little bit sometimes to amateurs and we never really move much on your loft. West coast, East coast, we changed the loft a little bit, but it's always in that half degree increment. For an amateur, how important is loft on a putter and lie on a putter and how can they maybe find what they need if they don't have the access to superior talent like myself to fit them? How do they find that? Or maybe not in the case of you?

DJ: Oh yeah. I mean obviously putting with a putter that fits you is very important. You know, having the right lie, having the right loft, cause everybody's going to differ, especially with loft based on hand position and you know, where their hand position is at impact. So you know, generally guys are going to be between 4 and probably two and a half to,

Trottie: Depending on where they're playing.

DJ: But you know, knowing what loft you need and you know, I think it's very important to go somewhere and get on a putting camera or you know, talk to a professional that knows, kind of a little bit about putting that could help them. But yeah, having the right lie angle is a big part of it just so you can hit the ball in the center of the face and hit it in the center of the face correctly. So I think it's very important. It's just like a driver. If you're using a driver with the wrong loft and the wrong shaft, you’re probably not going to hit it very good.

Trottie: No, it's critical.

DJ: And two, if you think about it, you know, putting is, what's tour average, probably 29 or something putts per round?

Trottie: Yep.

DJ: So if you think about it, that's almost, that's pretty much half.

Trottie: 30, 30 odd percent. Say 40% of them get his shots.

DJ: That’s forty.

Trottie: Yeah. As a tour player. Yeah.

DJ: Right. So it's very, very important.

Trottie: When you were out with rehab, I saw online that you put a lot of time in for the Hurricane Dorian relief effort. What did that entail and how important was that for you be involved in that?

DJ: Well, obviously it was something that I could do to help. I spent a lot of time in The Bahamas and through the years I've made friends that live in The Bahamas. And so it felt like something that I needed to do. Obviously I'm in a position where I can do it. For me it was a no brainer. I wanted to help them out. In some parts of Bahamas, it’s complete devastation. I mean there's nothing left. And so for me it was, it was something small but still, it means a lot to them. And I go over to The Bahamas and spent a lot of time. So it was something that I really wanted to help all my friends around here, everyone, pretty much all the people I know are doing something to help them out in some way. For me it was very easy to do and it was something that I really wanted to do.

Trottie: Going forward, is there anything more that you see involved in that in the future that you'd want your legacy as you, you even thinking about foundations and things going on?

DJ: I have my own foundation and I'm going to continue to support, there's a lot of my friends and people that I know that are running relief efforts for the Bahamas, so I'm going to continue to support all of them and continue to do what I can.

Trottie: It's cool. Let's see if you continue to nail these speed injected questions, so similar to, similar to season one. Little different though. This time round, rapid fire and then we'll go from there. Torrey Pines or Bethpage? You've got good memories at both I guess.

DJ: Yeah, Bethpage.

Trottie: I thought you'd say that. Would you rather lead the tour in strokes gained off the tee or strokes gained putting?

DJ: Putting.

Trottie: The one course you could play every day for the rest of your life.

DJ: Baker's Bay.

Trottie: LeBron or Kawhi?

DJ: LeBron.

Trottie: Window or aisle seat. I guess it's been awhile. You can sit right in the middle car the way you play.

DJ: Window.

Trottie: Number of career hole-in-ones?

DJ: On tour?

Trottie: Career. I'll give you amateur before and practice.

DJ: 13.

Trottie: Geez, good effort. What would you shoot? Lefty? I know this has been a big conversation with you in the past. Left-handed. You still holding yourself to below a 100?

DJ: I'd break a 100.

Trottie: Break 90?

DJ: If you, if you let me practice for a week. Yes.

Trottie: Favorite TV or Netflix show right now?

DJ: I watch too many. I've been on the couch here for the last eight weeks, so I've got a lot of them I'm watching right now.

Trottie: Okay. What's the best, what's the go to?

DJ: Probably the best one I've watched in the last couple of months is Yellowstone.

Trottie: Yeah, it looks good. Mallet or blade and truss does come in a mallet as well. So you could have the stable of the trust with a mallet if you wanted to mallet or blade?

DJ: Mallet.

Trottie: Beach or the mountains?

DJ: Beach.

Trottie: And the one shot in your career you wish you could have a Mulligan on.

DJ: I've got a few. I've got three that stand out. Yes. The second shot there at the open chairmanship on the par five, whistling straits on the 18th hole. I’d like to have that shot back and then I don't know, my man over here Wink was saying Chambers Bay, but I don't feel like I hit a bad shot so I don't know which one I'd like to have back.

Trottie: Yeah. Yeah. It's an interesting question, right?

DJ: Yeah. I mean, I don't know. I don't want any of them back. I'm fine.

Trottie: It's funny that you say that because that was Tiger's answer as well. Like it's golf. Golf's golf, right? I mean it is what it is.

DJ: Exactly, it happened. There is no Mulligans, but yeah, I mean obviously if I sit here and think about it I'm sure there's plenty of them but I've also hit a lot of good ones. So.

Trottie: DJ, it's awesome to see you this close up. It's awesome to see you hit these good shots and it's awesome for TaylorMade to be connected with it. And obviously for myself, we joke about it, but just to play a small part of all the tour team to try and help you, it's fun. It's fun to get your feedback. We take it so literally, I mean the paint lines are changed because of what you say.

DJ: No, no, the paint lines are great. I mean, you can see it on the new drivers. It's very straight. They sit very good. They look amazing. So I appreciate you guys listening.

Trottie: We appreciate listening to you. Thanks for coming on the podcast guys. I hope you enjoyed listening to Dustin Johnson. This was his podcast. He can be found on Instagram @DustinJohnson. You can get myself capturing all these changes that happened to DJ's putter as they go on on Instagram @Trottiegolf. Obviously the TaylorMade handle @TaylorMadeGolf and this podcast can be found in all the usual places. Please check it out. Give us five stars, put some questions on there. Maybe you've got for DJ. We'll get him in next time around. Thanks for listening, DJ. Thanks for coming by.

DJ: Thanks for having me.

Trottie: Cheers, buddy.