Dustin Johnson, is one strong day away from winning his first major championship. Johnson has managed the challenges and quirks of Oakmont as well as anyone. But let’s face it, winning a U.S. Open at Oakmont is an arduous journey.
Johnson has been in a similar position. Last year, Johnson had a heart-wrenching collapse during the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, essentially handing the victory to Jordan Spieth.
Nonetheless, Johnson is a fixture on major championship leader boards, and ranked sixth in the world. He has placed in the top 10 after 36 holes in the last eight majors.
Johnson is one of the most high-profile players on the PGA Tour and engaged to model, Paulina Gretzky, daughter of hockey great Wayne Gretzky.
Johnson shares a close bond with his future father-in-law. Here are five fast facts to know about Johnson and Gretzky:
1. Johnson Is Engaged to Gretzky’s Daughter, Paulina
Johnson and Paulina started dating in 2012 and got engaged in August 2013. In January, it was announced that the two were planning a Fall 2014 wedding, but in May, Paulina told Golf Digest that they had postponed the ceremony due to Johnson’s busy schedule.
Johnson and Paulina became parents when their son, Tatum Gretzky Johnson, was born on January 19, 2014.
2. Gretzky Is Introducing Hockey to His Grandson at an Early Age
Dustin Johnson and Paulina Gretzky’s son Tatum inherited some pretty strong athletic genes. His father is one of the 10 best golfers in America. His grandfather is one of the greatest hockey players of all time.
It’s safe to say that Tatum will have quite a few sports mentors.
Gretzky and his wife Janet recently gave Tatum a few hockey lessons. If this video is any indication of what’s to come, the one-year-old may just have some of his grandfather’s skills.
3. Gretzky Stood By Johnson Through Difficult Times
Johnson took a six-month leave of absence from golf in 2014 to seek help for “personal challenges.”
His hiatus came days after Golf.com reported that he he had been suspended by the Tour for failing a third test for recreational drugs, two of which were for cocaine.
Johnson and his publicist denied the reports, telling the media that cocaine was never an issue. However, Johnson did acknowledge he was facing challenges before he took hiatus from the PGA Tour.
“I will use this time to seek professional help for personal challenges I have faced,” he said in a statement issued by his management company. “By committing the time and resources necessary to improve my mental health, physical well-being and emotional foundation, I am confident that I will be better equipped to fulfill my potential and become a consistent champion.”
Gretzky has sought to be a positive influence, and has remained supportive of Johnson.
“I’ll tell you this unequivocally,” Gretzky told Golf.com. “It’s the first time I can see him say, ‘Gosh, I really miss it, and when I get back I want it to be something special.’”
Johnson has tried to lead a simpler life since taking time off. His typical morning includes breakfast at his future-in-laws home, according to Golf.com. After he works out with a trainer, he hits the range and plays golf with a regular group of five to 10 friends that includes Gretzky.
Gretzky has offered words of wisdom to Johnson, helping him to realize talent can’t be taken for granted.
“People ask me now, ‘What do you do to replace hockey?’” Gretzky told Golf.com. “I don’t. I can’t. And I tell Dustin, ‘You can’t replace golf or what you do and bring to the sport. Make sure you understand that, and don’t mess that up.’
4. Gretzky Was Amazed by Johnson’s Response to His U.S. Open Collapse
Gretzky watched as Johnson went from a chance to win his first major in last year’s U.S. Open to one of the most devastating collapses of his career. Gretzky later recounted how remarkably well Johnson was able to move on from the setback.
Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press wrote about how impressed Gretzky was with his future son-in-law’s resiliency:
Johnson headed to Idaho with the Gretzky clan for a getaway. The next morning, Gretzky said he took a group out to play golf. On the second green, they looked behind to see a cart fast approaching. It was Johnson, who wanted to know why no one asked him to join the game.
Gretzky told this story in August, and it amazed him how much Johnson was able to move on from setbacks.
“I know this much,” Gretzky said. “If I ever lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, I wouldn’t want to skate with a bunch of amateurs the next day.”
5. Gretzky Has Been a Mentor to Johnson
Gretzky was a consistent champion, a four-time Stanley Cup winner, and a living hockey legend. “The Great One” knows a thing or two about winning, and has passed along some of that advice to Johnson, who has 11 top-10s in the majors and five top-5s.
Gretzky has been instrumental in boosting Johnson’s confidence on the course, especially following his return to competitive play.
While playing at Sherwood Country Club last October, Gretzky told Johnson he would shoot a course record — and he did. Johnson shot a 61 to break the record, shot a 63 the following day and then shot a 61 the next day.
Their bond continues to grow.
According to ESPN’s Ian O’Connor, they looked like a “father-son pairing on Father’s Day weekend.”
‘The Great One’ and the 31-year-old golfer made eye contact before the round. Wayne Gretzky, Johnson’s father-in-law-to-be, had been on the Oakmont premises and had told people on the grounds he was proud of how Johnson had carried himself since his 2015 leave of absence, taken, the player said, “to seek professional help for personal challenges I have faced.
However, when asked if he has tried to coach Johnson in any way, Gretzky told the L.A. Times, “I really don’t. He’s a pro golfer; I wasn’t. He prepares the same way I did. He eats right; his preparation habits before the round are good. There’s not a whole lot of advice I could give him.”