There could be a trap awaiting Dustin Johnson this week at Augusta National. It’s a trap that has captured many of the world’s elite players in the past and a trap that’s strong enough to hold them back for several seasons and potentially have career- altering ramifications.
There is a theory amongst modern-day players that you must work the ball off the tee from right to left to win at Augusta National. Partly because the par fives at Augusta National all move from right to left
Many of the key par fours also move from right to left and have demanding narrow shoots off the tee (the par four 5th, 9th, and 10th fall into this category). Certain Masters regulars have had to retool their entire swings in an attempt to win a green jacket based on this ball movement theory.
Martin Kaymer almost lost his career in pursuit of the green jacket after altering his swing to match the ball movement off the tees at Augusta. In 2010, he won the PGA Championship and in 2011 he spent eight weeks as the official No.1 golfer in the world.
In 2012, Kaymer decided to rebuild his swing in an attempt to start to move the ball from right to left off the tee with the thinking being that moving from a fade to a draw would suit Augusta National.
The change backfired. By 2013, he had fallen to No. 39 in the world and was lost in the wilderness.
Finally, in early 2014, he abandoned the plan to “work a draw” and made the decision to go back to his natural ball flight – the fade. Later that year, he won the U.S. Open at Pinehurst.
Fast forward to 2017, the world No. 1 has grabbed golf by the throat with three wins in a row and six wins since last June (which included his first Major – the U.S. Open).
In late 2015, Johnson and his swing coach Butch Harmon made the decision to move from a draw to a fade off the tee, which would become DJ’s shot of choice. Since making the move, his driving accuracy numbers have increased, leaving him constantly in the fairway.
The big trap for the world’s No. 1 this week at Augusta National is the theory that he needs to hit a draw.
When you hit it as high and as far as Johnson, his power fade allows him to take different angles off the tee and eliminate the need to force an unnatural shape.
Jack Nicklaus won six Masters (an all-time record) with a power fade very similar to what DJ has hit for the past 12 months. This should prove to the world’s top golfers that if the high fade is their shot of choice, they don’t need to suddenly rebuild their swing or change their game plan that put them in the Masters field to begin with.
Early chatter and comments from Johnson suggest that he’s committed to sticking with his reliable fade all week, but the optics of Augusta can be tempting. If he bites, and tries to force a draw for the first time in 2017, or starts leaving the driver in the bag with the thought of turning over 3 woods, this week at Augusta could be a frustrating tournament for the heavily favoured world No. 1 player.
However, if he sticks with his current strategy and dances with who brought him to the ball, he could be slipping on his first green jacket and winning his second major in less than a year.