SBS Tournament of Champions: Dustin Johnson Is Ready to Roll

Dustin Johnson, fresh off winning the PGA Tour Player of the Year honors in 2016, discussed his outstanding 2016 season and what he expects from both the SBS Tournament of Champions tournament and the upcoming 2017 season in a press conference on Wednesday.

JOHN BUSH: We’d like to welcome Dustin Johnson into the interview room here at the SBS Tournament of Champions. He’s making his seventh start at this event. He’s our 2013 champion, and he’s coming off of winning PGA TOUR Player of the Year honors.

Dustin, welcome back to Kapalua. If we can get some comments?

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, obviously it’s always great to start the year here. It’s a golf course I really enjoy playing. I’ve had good success here and you know, I’m looking forward to 2017, getting off to a good start. I like this tournament.

I think this golf course, it keeps getting better each day. It’s drying out a little bit. Looking for a pretty good week.

JOHN BUSH: Before we open it up, just recap 2016. Just an outstanding year.

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, it was a good year (laughter). Obviously you know, to get the first major win was huge. And then obviously I continued to play really well after that. You know, got two more wins to finish off the year.

So this year, just looking for kind of the same thing. Just keep putting myself in position to win golf tournaments.

Q. Jordan was just in here talking about the difference between 2016 and 2015 and the expectations of coming off such a great year. Do you think you’re going to wrestle into those expectations going into a new year after what you did last season?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Hopefully not. I mean, I’m pretty good at not really thinking about what I did in the past, because it doesn’t really matter. It’s all about what I’m doing right now and what’s coming up, because it doesn’t matter how good a year I had last year. That doesn’t matter anymore; it’s this year.

So it’s complete a new year, so we’ve got all new goals and new things that I want to do. But I mean, at the end of the day last year at this point, it doesn’t really matter. I mean, it does obviously, in some instances, but for right now, it’s all about this year and what I’m going to do this year and how I’ll play.

Q. All new goals, all new things you want to do; can you elaborate or be specific on these goals for this year?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I mean, I just keep trying to get better. Keep working on my wedge game; trying to improve that. Keep trying to get that better. That’s one thing I focused on a lot last year was just wedges and so I’m going to keep doing that, and short game and putting. That’s where, for me, if my wedges are good and I chip and putt well, I’m going to play pretty well most days.

So I think that’s where the big difference was last year, is where I played a lot more consistent. My short game was pretty good, and you know, my wedge game was really good last year. It was the best year I’ve had consistently with the wedges.

So it’s kind of the same focus this year. Just keep trying to improve in those areas.

Q. How good do you sort of rate 2016 in your eyes? In other words, given your abilities, talents, achievements, etc., do you sort of — can you be a lot better or do you prefer to view that as, you know, maybe a best-year?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, it’s my best year since I’ve been on TOUR. I felt like there was a lot of — there was quite a few tournaments where, you know, it could have been better. It could have been a really, really good year; not that it wasn’t. But you know, there was quite a few tournaments where I had chances to win; that I felt like I should have won but I didn’t.

You know, that’s kind of more the focus this year is put myself in those positions and then finish them off.

Q. How strong is your desire to be No. 1, the best in the game?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I mean, yeah, of course, I want to be the best. But you know, obviously there’s ways to get there and that’s by winning golf tournaments. I don’t really focus on becoming No. 1 as much as I do just playing the golf tournament that I’m playing, putting myself in position to win it on Sunday.

Q. Some guys watch those numbers all the time, I think Jason does watch the rankings. Do you have anything that is your thing to look at —
DUSTIN JOHNSON: No — myself?

Q. — there’s nothing that you, you know — that interests you enough to look at all the time.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, of course, I check the World Rankings every once in a while. I think the last time I looked was, I don’t know, November maybe. I don’t know. I can’t remember the last time I looked.

You know, for me, it’s more about where I’m at in the golf tournament that I’ll play in. You know, how I can get better, how I can improve, what do I need to do to have a chance to win the golf tournament.

Q. It’s been raining the last month in Maui, and over the last couple days and it might rain again tonight. Does that maybe bring everybody into the mix?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, right now, it soft and the ball’s not really rolling in the fairways. You know, I’d have to think that definitely the longer guys are going to have a little bit of an advantage.

You know, if we don’t get any rain, it’s going to dry out. Because when I came out here on Sunday afternoon to today, the course has changed completely as far as it’s gotten a lot drier, and a lot faster than I thought it would. But the ball is still not really bouncing. It gets a little bit of roll but it’s not backing up in the fairways like it was.

But I think the golf course is doing very well, especially the weather they have had the last month here. It’s in pretty good shape and it’s starting to dry out.

Q. Do you think finally winning a major frees you up in majors going forward? Is there any different kind of sense when you get there?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Well, you know, the best part about it is I’m not going there to get my first major; I’ve got one. So I’m not still trying to win one. I’ve already won one. I know what it takes. I know I’ve put myself in position a lot of times before, but just never really finished one off.

So I feel like obviously I’ve got the game to contend in majors, but it’s still all about, you’ve got to execute golf shots. But yeah, definitely the mind-set’s a lot different, for sure.

Q. The number of Top-10s you had last year indicates a great consistency overall. I’m wondering, three wins is a lot, actually, but I’m wondering if you look at it a little bit glass half-empty because you didn’t win more of them, or if it’s half-full because you were there so many times.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Yeah, I mean, I try to take the positive out of any situation. I mean, yeah, I think I look at it as obviously great year, but yeah, I played very consistent. I finished Top-10 a lot. I had a lot of chances to win a golf tournament.

But obviously getting three wins, which is the most I’ve had since I’ve been on TOUR was very good. I had a lot of chances to win quite a few more.

So like I’ve been saying, I just want to keep doing that. Keep trying to be consistent. Keep consistently being on the leaderboard on Sunday and having a chance to win golf tournaments.

Q. You are often referred to as the best athlete on the PGA TOUR. Is there anybody that you look at or think of as maybe being your equal, as far as an athlete, or are you comfortable with the fact that you are the best?
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Oh, I mean, obviously you look at the guys that are in the Top-10 in the world, they are all really good athletes. They are consistently up there all the time.

So you know, to be considered that obviously is great, but you take the other Top-10 guys in the world, they are all pretty darn good athletes, too.

JOHN BUSH: Dustin Johnson, thank you, sir.

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Thomas Derlan worked directly in the online casino industry for a number of years as an affiliate manager at a large online casino and writes about the global gambling industry for Rouletters.com