Every golf teacher would love to see a student latch on to changes as quickly as Dustin Johnson latched on to what he learned in a one-day lesson from desert putting guru Dr. Craig Farnsworth.
Just three weeks after Farnsworth flew to the Bear’s Club in Jupiter Beach, Florida, for a one-day teaching session with Johnson, the former world No. 1 and past U.S. Open champion collected his 21st career PGA Tour victory with a one-shot win at the Travelers Championship in Connecticut.
“We’d all like to see results that fast with every student,” Farnsworth joked.
Based in the desert at The Palms Golf Club in La Quinta, Farnsworth has a long and impressive list of professional clients through the years, from Nick Faldo to Annika Sorenstam to more recently working with Hideki Matsuyama. But until a phone call about a month ago, Farnsworth had never worked with Johnson. The call was from Johnson’s agent at Hambric Sports in Dallas, who had received a recommendation to have Johnson talk to Farnsworth.
“I kind of got a good fanfare as usual from happy, successful clients or students, so this wasn’t completely out of the dark,” Farnsworth said. “Most of this stuff is a happy referral.”
On less than a week’s notice, Farnsworth flew to Florida armed with the results of a questionnaire that Johnson had filled out in advance about the positives and negatives of his putting and rating different aspects of his putting like speed control and reading of greens.
“Then we test them, computer analysis, some visual testing on them and then start working on set up, which is a biggie for me,” said Farnsworth, a sports vision optometrist.
Dustin Johnson lines up a putt on the 18th green during the TaylorMade Driving Relief at Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Quick win after the tour restart
The lesson came one week before the PGA Tour’s return to action at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas. Johnson admitted at the time his game was rusty from the tour’s three-month break. But last week at the Travelers, Johnson’s putting was a big reason for his victory. For the year. Johnson ranks 79th in Strokes Gained: Putting statistic at .208. But in the final three rounds of the Travelers, Johnson’s SG: Putting were much higher, including two days over 2.0.
“Every hole, I felt like I was giving myself an opportunity to make birdie, and I feel like I’m rolling the putter well,” Johnson said after the third round of the Travelers. “So I just need to get myself in a position where I’ve got a chance to make a putt.”
Farnsworth said be believes three things have helped Johnson in the last month. First was just getting the rust off of his game after the virus break. Second was a change in putters, to a triangular-shaped putter by TaylorMade and designed by another desert resident, Ronnie Pritchett
“That triangle-shaped thing he designs, it’s a damn good putter,” Farnsworth said of Pritchett. “At least Dustin seems to think so.”
Finally, Farnsworth said he did mechanical work with Johnson, who told Farnsworth that he is a feel putter. Farnsworth’s philosophy leans more toward the technical aspects of putting.
“We try and work with what they have, no doubt about that, long putters, short putters,” Farnsworth said. “If the player has some back issues, that means maybe they can’t do some things that we consider to be an efficient setup.”
Johnson was like a lot of players, Farnsworth said, in that he didn’t actually know what a putter is doing during the stroke.
“We are talking about tempo back, tempo forward, strong rotation, miles per hour. There are several points we are looking at,” Farnsworth said. “Overall, most people don’t realize that there are certain things that happen with the stroke.”
Farnsworth said he took many training devices to the meeting with Johnson, and Johnson took almost all of them in his quest for a better putting stroke, particularly better speed in his putting.
Dustin Johnson poses with the trophy after winning the Travelers Championship golf tournament at TPC River Highlands. (Photo: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)
Even the best need help
How could a player like Johnson, a former world No. 1 with a major championship, need help with his putting and require Farnsworth’s help?
Farnsworth said sometimes players make changes to their putting setup or switch putters, causing new issues. Other times, putting is just a weakness in a player’s game.
“Most people find that they are better ball strikers or putters, or their short game is strong, and that’s what they focus on,” Farnsworth said. “In Dustin’s case, we know he’s a great ball striker. So he needs to focus more on his putting.”
The lesson with Johnson could be a one-time thing, Farnsworth admits, since each student is different and needs different levels of help. Some players work with Farnsworth regularly, others might see him only once or twice a year.
What fascinates Farnsworth is when he works with a student, the student improves, and then six months later the student seems to have gone away from Farnsworth’s philosophies. One recent student had Farnsworth confused.
“Six months later, I didn’t see one thing (in the putting stroke or setup) we had talked about,” Farnsworth said. “Not one.”
Larry Bohannan is The Desert Sun golf writer. He can be reached at (760) 778-4633 or email@example.com. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter at Sun.@Larry_Bohannan. Support local journalism: Subscribe to the Desert Sun.