Stop me if you’ve heard this adage before: You need to play a draw to win at Augusta National.
Over the years we’ve seen many right-handed players with a natural right-to-left ball flight enjoy success at the Masters. Zach Johnson is a prime example. This trend could also help explain why five of the last 14 winners have been lefties who play a butter cut around the tough corners of holes like the 2nd, 10th and 13th. Martin Kaymer infamously decided to reconstruct his swing when he was the No. 1 player in the world so that he could hit a draw, to better compete in the Masters.
So, what does this mean for the Masters prospects of reigning world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who predominately plays a fade?
We checked in with DJ’s coach, Claude Harmon III, to find out how the game’s top player will attack the game’s most iconic course.
GOLF.com: Do you agree that you need a draw to win at Augusta National?
Harmon: Jack Nicklaus won there six times and hit a fade, so … no. I think that it sometimes gets overplayed that you have to draw it. I think players can sometimes buy into kind of the cloak-and-dagger nature of Augusta. It’s one of the best parts about Augusta.
DJ’s also already proven he can handle Augusta, with a T-6 finish in 2015 and T-4 last year.
He had a very good chance last year. He had probably three eagle putts inside 20 feet and didn’t make any of them. Here’s the thing about Augusta, it’s the same venue every year, and there is this mystique about it and there’s a lot of white noise — you have to be a great putter, or you have to do this or that — and I think that’s a test for the week as well. Going in there you know all of these things already, right? You know you don’t want to miss it in this position, you know that historically you can’t make par from hitting it in this position; so there are all these arbitrary things that you know going in there, right? It all plays into the mind game of it.
Is DJ fully committed to hitting a cut with the driver? Could the need to play a draw take driver out of his hands?
I think that you can make the argument that you have to turn it [over] at 2, 9, 10, 13 and 14. But that means the rest of it, you can do what you want. If he had to hit the draw, I think he could probably use his 2-iron and he can carry that 275-280 in the air.
So if hitting the draw isn’t DJ’s biggest hurdle next week, what is?
Staying focused. Obviously when you’re No. 1 in the world, and you’re coming in trying to win your fourth tournament in a row, you’re trying to win the first major of the year. And this year he’s going in as the clear-cut favorite. So obviously he comes into the week with the burden of expectation, but I think any player would want to go in there as the hottest player in the game, and I think he is.
How would you describe his confidence level?
This is the most confident that I have ever seen him going into any tournament. On and off the golf course. I think the way he won the U.S. Open and his first major with all the adversity he had had up to that point and the strange situation mid-round… I think he goes in now thinking that he can pretty much withstand anything that the game throws at him.
There is a genuine calmness about his game right now. He knows he’s one of the guys to beat, he knows if he plays his best, he’s going to have a chance to win.