Johnson tipped to don Masters green jacket

Jim SLATER
Dustin Johnson of the United States plays a shot from a bunker on the second hole at Augusta National Golf Club

World number one Dustin Johnson, the first player in 41 years to enter the Masters on a three-event win streak, is an oddsmakers' favorite in this year's first major championship.

But the 32-year-old American knows it will take far more than his trademark long-driving skills to capture a green jacket come Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club.

"Everything has got to be working this week," Johnson said Tuesday. "If you want to win, you've got to drive it well, you're going to have to hit your irons well. You're going to have to putt it well. That's what it takes to win.

"They are the best golfers in the world so you've got to bring your best stuff if you want to win."

Johnson, trying to become the first player atop the world rankings to win the Masters since Tiger Woods in 2005, won at Riviera in February to become world number one and took titles last month at World Golf Championship Mexico and Match Play events.

"I feel like my game is really solid right now," Johnson said. "I've been working hard on it and I feel like I'm playing really well. It's a lot of fun.

But not since Hubert Green in 1976 has a player entered the Masters on a three-tournament win streak. Not since Jimmy Demaret in 1940 has a player made the Masters his fourth win in a row.

"It's a funny game," Johnson said. "It doesn't matter how good you are playing, you can still not win. Same goes for this week. If I want to win here, everything is going to have to go well for me.

"I've got a lot of confidence in my game right now, especially with the way I've been playing the last few tournaments. But you know, anything can happen."

- Key to victory -

Johnson, who won his first major title at last year's US Open, knows the undulating greens of Augusta National are liable to be the key to victory. As much as he can put himself in good places with big tee shots, his putts are liable to be the difference in a tight green jacket battle Sunday.

"If you want to win around here, you're going to have to putt it well," Johnson said. "I feel like if I putt very well, I'm going to have a chance to win on Sunday."

Johnson had his best Masters finish last year, sharing fourth. He birdied the par-5 13th and 15th holes on Sunday to pull within two of eventual winner Danny Willett but a double bogey at 17 ended his hopes.

"I've always liked the course. I always thought it suited my game very well," Johnson said. "The last couple years I've done a little better and I feel like I've had a chance.

"I'm playing well coming into this week so hopefully I can continue that success and I'm looking forward to giving myself a chance to win on Sunday."

Part of Johnson's work ethic comes from his father-in-law, ice hockey icon Wayne Gretzky, the NHL's all-time leading scorer.

"Just being around him (I learned about) hard work and dedication, listening to him tell stories about growing up and how hard he used to practice," Johnson said.

Johnson uses his top ranking to channel extra energy into workouts.

"I don't count the weeks but honestly it's nice to hear it," Johnson said of being number one. "It drives me to practice more and continue to work on my game and try to get better so I can stay there.

"I have a drive to be the best no matter what sport I'm playing or what I'm doing."