Golf: As Tournament of Champions beckons, top-ranked Dustin Johnson is still motivated to improve in 2021

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, whose four 2020 victories included a Masters triumph, plans to keep his foot on the accelerator in 2021.

“I mean, I like being the best,” he said on Wednesday (Jan 6) on the eve of the United States PGA Tour Tournament of Champions at Kapalua in Hawaii. “I want to continue the good play and hopefully can have a little bit better year this year.”

The PGA Tour’s Player of the Year captured his second Major at the pandemic-delayed Masters in November – after winning the Tour Championship in September.

The 36-year-old American, who won the Tournament of Champions in 2013 and 2018, thinks there is still room for improvement in his game.

“Short game, putting, wedges – I still feel like I can get a lot better with the wedges,” said Johnson, who had three runner-up finishes in 2020 along with his quartet of wins.

“I continue to practise those, when I do practise, I mean I’m always working on my wedges.

“I can drive it better, I can definitely hit the long irons a little bit better, so I feel like there’s plenty of areas I can improve and so that’s what I’ll look forward to doing this year.”

Kapalua, where he has eight top-10 finishes in 10 starts, is a good place for Johnson to knock off any rust in his first start since his victory at Augusta National.

“It’s OK to be a little bit rusty,” he said. “The fairways are nice and wide and there’s still some shots, you’ve got to hit some really quality golf shots, but I feel like I’ve had the last week or so to play a little bit. I’m rusty, but not too rusty.”

In recent days of practice, he said, “everything feels pretty similar” to his stellar form of late 2020.

“Obviously not quite as sharp as I was probably back at Augusta, but I’m seeing a lot of the same shapes and I feel like I’m doing everything pretty well.”

After the coronavirus disruptions of last year, the PGA Tour loosened the qualification criteria for this year’s Tournament of Champions to include not only 2020 winners but also players who reached last year’s Tour Championship.

The record 42-strong field includes eight of the world’s top 10, including defending champion and world No. 3 Justin Thomas and second-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain.

A confident Johnson sees no reason he won’t be in the hunt.

“I expect to play well always,” he said. “So I’m not hoping to play well, I expect to play well.”

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