This isn't your father's PGA Tour. Heck, this isn’t even your PGA Tour from a few years ago. The days of rooting for either Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson to lift the trophy at the (Insert Sponsor's Name Here) Open appear to be over, at least for the 2015 season.
With Tiger taking an indefinite leave of absence and The Masters looking more and more like a Tiger-less affair, and with Phil continuing to struggle with his swing and arthritis, the PGA Tour has taken a 1-2 punch in star power and is in desperate need of a fresh face.
Looking at the leaderboard these days is like ordering from a Chinese menu; you don't know the names and they all taste the same. The winners list includes James Hahn, Brooks Koepka and Alex Cejka, who might as well be Tom, Dick and Harry to golf fans.
Even Rory McIlroy, the most recent candidate to carry the torch for Tiger and Phil, was last seen hurling his 3-iron into the drink at Doral. And emerging stars Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer are currently battling it out on the money list – for 104th place, that is.
So who's going to be the next big name to take the Tour by storm? The answer might be right under our noses, especially for folks living and playing golf in the Myrtle Beach area. Even if you don’t, it’s a name you already know but isn’t on your radar.
Call us homers, but the man to watch is not a new name, just a new man – Dustin Johnson. The former Coastal Carolina University All-American and Myrtle Beach golfer returned to the Tour after a six-month hiatus and promptly returned to winning in just his fifth event.
Johnson's five-stroke rally at Doral was a comeback story in more ways than one. His ninth career victory showed just how far his mental and physical game have come during his time away from the Tour to address “personal challenges” in his life.
Johnson was rumored to be suspended for failing a drug test, a charge the Tour denied, but even he admits that his priorities were out of whack even when his golf swing wasn’t. For almost a decade he has been competing on natural talent alone and spending his time off the course living the life so many young athletes fall into. Not a judgment; just a fact.
Then reality struck and it was, in his own words, “time to grow up.” His girlfriend, Pauline (yes, as in the supermodel and daughter of hockey great Wayne) Gretzky, recently gave birth to their son, Tatum. (By the way, how good is that kid's athletic genetics? Better tuck that name away in the memory bank in case he becomes a real-life Happy Gilmore.)
After showing the composure that had been considered his weakness earlier in his career, Johnson hoisted the Doral trophy, hugged his wife, held his child and spoke like a man who had advanced six years during his six-month absence from the Tour. It’s obvious that his time away was good for his game and his personal life.
Johnson wouldn't be the first 30-something to stop sewing his wild oats and achieve greatness. Some have even gone on to be President. And he wouldn’t be the first pro golfer to have his life and career put in the proper perspective by a 7-pound, 8-ounce bundle of joy. Living one’s life for loved ones is a powerful motivator.
So DJ is our pick to replace Tiger and Phil atop the leaderboard, and not just because of his local ties. Those who have known him for years have seen the untapped potential and hoped he would put it all together in his prime. It appears he is now ready to be the best man and golfer he can be.