Each year the world of golf has four majors and invariably each has its own morality tale to tell. This year’s Masters, played at Augusta National Golf Club, was held in the fall, thanks to COVID-19, so it lacked the colorful flowering azaleas and the roar of the crowds on the back nine Sunday.
But it did not lack the unique morality tale represented by Dustin Johnson. Like Odysseus, Dustin Johnson is indeed “the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy.” Much like Odysseus, who took 10 years to get home, over the last 10 years Johnson was the man who shot a fourth round 82 at Pebble Beach to lose the 2010 US Open and three putted from 12 feet to lose the US Open to Jordan Spieth at Chambers Bay. Dustin Johnson was the man penalized two strokes by inadvertently grounding his club in the sand on the 72nd hole at Whistling Straits to lose the PGA Championship. Like Odysseus, when home was in sight the winds blew him off course enough to give up 54 hole leads four times in majors and to mold the man who therefore has suffered humiliating defeats.
But this time there has been a happy ending. Odysseus finally got to embrace his wife Penelope after 10 years of trying and DJ finally won the Masters and fell into the loving arms of his gorgeous fiancée, Paulina Gretzky. And from the looks of things, Paulina is clearly worth coming home to.
Dustin Johnson’s life is a morality tale filled with loss, ridicule, shame, struggle and finally redemption. He grew up within an hour’s drive from Augusta, but the twists and turns he endured in his career included testing positive for cocaine and thereby incurring a six- month suspension from the PGA, a serious back injury after a fall down the stairs in his home and just two weeks ago he contracted COVID, which he seems to have overcome with grace and ease.
Odysseus had the help of the Greek goddess Athena in finding his way home and it’s my guess that Paulina Gretzky and her father Wayne were of great assistance to him and perhaps through them he has learned all about discipline, hard work and focus.
It was endearing to see him break down during a post-win televised interview with CBS reporter Amanda Balionis when asked what the victory meant to him. He was tearful and silent for a full 1 ½ minutes as he struggled to respond to her questions about how he felt about this win.
As a psychoanalyst I have been asked more than once to explain why athletes so often break down and cry during award ceremonies . There is virtually no literature on this phenomena, but my guess is that the combination of exhaustion, relief and joy converge and are like a tsunami of feelings which flood the athlete’s well-guarded defenses and break through during these interviews. And fans adore the display of feelings.
The magic of golf was on fine display this year at the Masters despite the lack of crowds. This tournament still had the refined beauty of Augusta National, the history of the event, the wonderful television coverage that kept commercial breaks to a minimum and finally a morality story of a hero who has struggled for 10 years to find his way home.
So now, just like Odysseus, DJ, the man of twists and turns, has found his way into the history books, into the arms of his lovely fiancée and into our hearts as well.