US Open (golf)

Dustin Johnson says fatherhood has made him a better player ahead of US Open

World number one ready to make it a double celebration at Erin Hills as he and wife Paulina Gretzky welcome arrival of baby River

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 June, 2017, 12:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 June, 2017, 2:37pm

World number one Dustin Johnson says fatherhood has made him a better player as he prepares to defend his US Open title just days after the birth of his second son.

The 32-year-old arrived at Erin Hills on Tuesday after a hectic 24 hours that saw him and wife Paulina Gretzky celebrate the arrival of baby River on Monday.

Johnson, who has been installed as the favourite for this week’s title in Wisconsin, described his unusual major championship build up as an “awesome couple of days”.

“Everybody’s healthy. Mom is healthy. The baby is healthy. So that’s good,” Johnson said.

The big-hitting American star has begun to deliver on his talent in recent seasons after a series of major near-misses.

A second-place finish at the 2015 US Open at Chambers Bay was followed by last year’s victory at Oakmont, his first major, while in February he claimed the world number one ranking.

Johnson believes being a parent has helped him ascend to the top of the golfing heap.

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“It just gives you a whole new perspective on things,” he said. “Where before kind of golf was the most important and now my family is the most important.

“At the end of the day whether I’m having a good day or bad day, when I either see my family or talk to them, whatever, if I was upset or even if I was happy with the way I played, none of that matters.

“Just I’m always happy and excited to be with them.”

Johnson is still smarting from the freak accident that deprived him of the chance to challenge for the Masters in April, when he slipped on stairs and hurt his back on the eve of the tournament.

“It was very disappointing not to be able to play, kind of with a freak accident,” he said. “I’m excited to come back and defend this week.”

Johnson ended up watching the Masters on television as a frustrated viewer.

“I couldn’t really do much else, I was laying on the couch,” he said.

“Leading into the Masters I was playing the best golf that I’ve ever played. I’ve still got some work to do to get back to when I was playing that good.”