It was early in the morning, though the time doesn’t really matter, and the gate at Dustin Johnson’s house wouldn’t obey the code. Carrying a cup and
dressed in sweat pants, he walked down the driveway to trip
an electronic sensor—the one that usually lets people out
instead of letting them in—with a motion of his right leg as
nonchalant as dragging his toes through hot water to test
the temperature. The right option can open doors.
The house is in Jupiter, Fla. If the British Army was ever
trapped in the Palm Beaches the way it was at Dunkirk, the
professional golfers along the banks of the Loxahatchee
River would have enough skiffs and speedboats among them
to ferry a couple of divisions across the Jupiter Inlet all by
themselves. Johnson has a dock with a 36-foot Yellowfin
and a 243cc Everglades, both suspended out of the water by
hoists, at least until after his game with Michael Jordan, the
local touring pros’ personal high-yield money market fund.
There’s a beanbag toss in the backyard with the Ryder Cup
logo for a target. Johnson has two dogs, Daisy the Golden-doodle and Charlie the Labradoodle, though in all honesty,
Charlie got seriously shorted in the doodle department. The
living room furniture is covered with beach towels because
they have the run of the joint.
The tour of the house is matter of fact. There are a bunch
of bedrooms. Paulina Gretzky, Dustin’s fiancée, is in one of
them. She doesn’t come out. His brother and caddie,
Austin, who has a business degree from the College of
Charleston and goes by the initials A.J., does. He stops in
the kitchen on his way to the gym. He trains more than D.J.
but shames his older brother into joining him more and
more. There’s a pool table over the multi-car garage and
an Aston Martin in it, parked near a set of free weights.
Neither the car nor the weights look like they get out much.
There’s a plush theater room and a case with some crystal
trophies and an office with the scorecards from several of
Johnson’s eight tour victories on the wall. One supposes
the pool table sees more action than the desk. A magnum
of wine just arrived from Chile. Dustin begins to open the
package, but it’s wrapped so securely you’d have to have
close-combat training to get into the thing, so he leaves
it for later. There’s a baseball on his desk in a cup. It’s
scuffed on one side. He used it the week of the U.S. Open
at Olympic Club when he threw out the first pitch for the
San Francisco Giants, but it was Matt Cain who threw the
perfect game that night. In the driveway there’s a big truck
with big wheels and a ’67 black Pontiac parked off to the
side protected by a car cover. He bought it from the guy
who built his house in Myrtle Beach, S.C., before he moved
to Florida. He says he had the whole thing reupholstered.
Sometimes in life the upgrades are under wraps.
In between throwing a super-sized tennis ball to the
indefatigable Charlie, we talk. He doesn’t say much. The gate
seldom opens all the way. Someone’s trapping and killing dolphins on CNN on the big screen. Johnson stops everything to
watch. The cruelty makes him angry. Does he ever imagine
how lucky he is to have traveled the path he has traveled
to arrive in such a grand house down by the river? “All the
time,” he says.
If the question is who the best athlete on the PGA Tour is,
Johnson’s name is the answer you almost always get. But,
even at 6-foot- 4 and 190 with the oily gait of a jungle cat,
when the object is to put a ball that’s 1.68 inches in diameter
in a hole in the ground that’s 4. 25 inches across, your vertical
leap is pretty much irrelevant. His talent is not. Given their
customary Tuesday money games, Phil Mickelson and, by
extension, his caddie Jim Mackay, have played about as
much golf as anyone with Johnson. Mackay has been effusive
in his praise, placing Johnson very nearly in the category of
a Tiger Woods or a Mickelson. Phil is a big fan of big power,
some would argue so much so it’s worked to his detriment
from time to time. “He’s an incredible driver of the golf ball,”