Dustin Johnson's motivation? 'I like being the best'
Kicking off a new year in Maui has become an annual tradition for Dustin Johnson.
Having won at least one tournament in 11 consecutive years, Johnson is already a two-time winner of the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
However, this week feels different, and not because players who reached the Tour Championship were added to a field typically reserved only for winners in the previous year.
Johnson is returning from a six-week break, with his last competitive putt coming to win his first Masters.
Johnson, 36, is the No1 player in the world, the reigning Masters and FedEx Cup champion and is coming off a four-win year in a truncated season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
After taking an extended break to enjoy the holidays with longtime fiance Paulina Gretzky and their two children, Johnson was asked Wednesday what drives him on the golf course entering 2021.
"Motivation for me, it's not that hard," he said. "I mean, I like being the best. I want to continue the good play and hopefully can have a little bit better year this year."
Johnson said he didn't play much golf during his break since winning his first green jacket. He admitted that his game is "obviously not quite as sharp" as it was at Augusta National in mid-November, but many of those in the 42-player field have not competed since then, either.
"It's OK to be a little bit rusty," Johnson said. "The fairways are nice and wide and there's still some shots, you 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.
"So I'm rusty, but not too rusty."
Johnson strung together one of the best five-month stretches of golf in recent memory beginning with his win at the Travelers Championship.
What transpired from that point on makes it difficult to recall that Johnson's streak of consecutive years with at least one victory appeared to be in jeopardy mid-summer.
He missed the cut in the Tour's first event back from a three-month hiatus and was dealing with a bad back that caused him to withdraw from the 3M Open.
Having slipped to fifth in the world after tying for 12th at the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational, Johnson soon found his form. He finished second at the PGA Championship only due to an incredible Sunday finish by winner Collin Morikawa.
Johnson rebounded in historic fashion the following week, winning the first leg of The Northern Trust at 30-under par. A runner-up to Jon Rahm at the BMW Championship was followed by winning the Tour Championship, a T6 at the U.S. Open and a T2 at the Houston Open before his crowing moment at Augusta.
Arriving in Hawaii with no worse than a T6 in his past seven starts, Johnson isn't chalking this week up to knocking the rust off.
"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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