After spending 11 days quarantined in a hotel room, Dustin Johnson ran out of TV shows and movies to watch.
“There isn’t one you can name that I didn’t watch, I don’t think,” said Johnson, noting that “Yellowstone,” was his favorite. “I was just laying around kind of doing nothing. It was one of those things where I was like waiting to get sick because you know you have it, but for me it was very mild and obviously I’m very thankful for that.”
Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 on October 13, and withdrew from the CJ Cup and Zozo Championship, after experiencing achiness, congestion and a mild cough. He tested positive at an off-site location in Las Vegas run by Sanford Health. During a press conference ahead of the Vivint Houston Open, Johnson, who won three times last season and is the reigning FedEx Cup champion, declared himself a picture of health. As for his game with the Masters looming just a week away?
“My health is good. The state of my game is undetermined,” he said.
Johnson was in the midst of arguably his best stretch of golf in his 14 seasons on the PGA Tour, which is saying something considering he’s won 23 times. In his last five starts, Johnson won twice, including the Tour Championship, finished second twice and tied for sixth in his most recent start at the U.S. Open in September.
“I like the way I was doing everything really, so yeah, I was very pleased with it,” he said. “It was probably equally as good as ’17.”
That was during Johnson’s longest run as World No. 1, a position he returned to in August after winning the Northern Trust. He maintains a slim lead over Jon Rahm.
If history is any indication, Johnson should pick up right where he left off. He missed six weeks in 2012 with a back injury and won in his first start at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. He also took an extended break in 2014 to deal with “personal challenges,” and never skipped a beat. Australian Adam Scott, the 2007 Houston Open champ, is in a similar boat having tested positive for COVID-19 last month, and expects Johnson, who didn’t begin hitting balls until last Monday, to be just fine.
“If there’s anyone who can kind of dust off a change and kind of move on, it seems to be DJ. The way he plays golf, very little phases him out there. Problems on the golf course don’t seem to phase him and he bounces back quickly,” Scott said. “When you’re playing as good as he has for so long now, one week here warming up, I’m sure he’ll find all his feelings pretty quick. I don’t think he’s going to be struggling too much going into the Masters.”
Indeed, Johnson said his goal was simply “to get some reps” and get rid of any rust on a swing that is the envy of most every golfer, including Scott, who has long been considered the owner of the prettiest swing in golf.
“It’s so fluid and looks stress-free,” Scott said. “It’s like a modern Fred Couples. It just looks really easy for Dustin to generate all the clubhead speed he wants every time.”
Memorial Park, a recently renovated municipal course to the tune of $34 million, is hosting the Houston Open for the first time since 1963. With its wide corridors, it should be a bombers (and birdie) paradise and play to Johnson’s strengths.
“You’ve got to be on your game,” Johnson said. “I think you’re going to have to golf your ball around here if you want to shoot a good score.”