Dustin Johnson on His 'Special' Win at the Masters, and Support of Fiancée Paulina Gretzky
Dustin Johnson has triumphed during an incredibly difficult year, and he couldn't be more grateful.
The 36-year-old Adidas athlete is currently the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world, netting millions after defeating his peers in several PGA Tour tournaments, most notably the Masters last month.
Johnson's victories are even more impressive given the condensed and altered golf calendar due to the coronavirus — which he, himself, battled — pandemic.
"I've had a great year," he tells PEOPLE. "I've played well, especially over the last few months — winning the FedEx Cup and then later winning the Masters, obviously the highlight of the year."
Continues Johnson, "Obviously, I know 2020 has been a strange year for everyone, a challenging year for everybody. But I was able to turn it into a pretty good year with golf and I was very, very fortunate that we were playing golf [this year]."
At the Masters — which was postponed from its usual Spring date until November because of COVID-19 — Johnson set a 72-hole scoring record of 20 under, the lowest score in the history of the Masters at Augusta National in Georgia. He's now a two-time PGA Tour Player of the Year.
Still, he tells PEOPLE, there's room for improvement.
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"I mean, golf — that's one reason why I love the sport, is you're never going to master it," he says. "It doesn't matter how good you are, there's always areas that you can improve and things that you can do better. Obviously for me, being number one in the world and it's something that obviously I strive for and that I want to stay at, and it drives me to work harder and put more effort in to stay at the top of my game."
That constant push to be better is part of the reason Johnson, a South Carolina native who grew up only an hour from Augusta, was successful in securing the green jacket this year.
"For golfers, it's the Mecca, it's Augusta," says the athlete. "First, it's hard to get into tournament for one and then obviously to win, it's even that much more difficult. And then two, I grew up down the road from it … So it's just always had a special place in my heart. And now I think that grew a little bit too, becoming the Masters champion."
Johnson has a great team sharing in his victory, including his brother Austin Johnson, who serves as his caddie. "Having him on the bag's been incredible," he says of his sibling-slash-teammate. "You spend so much time with your caddie and traveling, going to all these wonderful places, but to just get to experience all this with my brother has been incredible."
There's also his fiancée Paulina Gretzky, with whom Johnson shares sons River, 3, and Tatum, 5.
"She's such a big supporter of mine … obviously with golf or any professional athlete, or even a business, you got to have somebody to support you," he says of his longtime love. "I've spent a lot of time away from home, or at the golf course, or traveling on the road, whatever it is. So you need that special person, especially with the kids, she does a great job taking care of everything else so all I got to do is worry about golf."
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The family will end the year in Hawaii, celebrating the holidays as well as Gretzky's birthday, before the PGA Tour's January Sentry Tournament of Champions in Maui.
What Johnson's most excited for, though? Just being able to "spend time with family."
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