ST LOUIS: World number one Dustin Johnson has drawn on the knowledge of his father-in-law, ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, in shaping his rise to golf’s highest level.
Now he could have some help from “The Great One” with drawing spectator support at this week’s 100th PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club.
Johnson will be competing for fans in a lineup that includes a playing group of the year’s three prior major winners — Francesco Molinari, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed — plus the trio of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and defending champion Justin Thomas.
Johnson and past Masters winners Bubba Watson and Adam Scott are grouped together but among the spectators will be Gretzky, who briefly played for the local St. Louis Blues during his 20 NHL seasons, retiring in 1999 as the all-time scoring leader.
“Any time you can spend time with someone who has kind of dominated their sport and just kind of pick their brain and see what they did to become so good, it definitely helps, absolutely,” Johnson said.
Johnson, the husband of model and singer Paulina Gretzky, expects plenty of backers.
“It will be great. Hopefully I’ve got a lot of fans with a lot of support. I know I have a lot of family here that’s going to be out supporting me,” Johnson said.
“I’m excited for this week. I think Wayne will bring a lot of fans out there for me, so that will be nice.”
Johnson, whose only major title came at the 2016 US Open, has won three US PGA titles for the third season in a row, taking the Tournament of Champions, the St. Jude Classic in June and the Canadian Open two weeks ago, securing his place atop the rankings.
“It’s definitely something that’s a big accomplishment and something I’m very proud of,” Johnson said. “It shows the things I’m doing on and off the course are working and it just gives me more confirmation to keep doing those things and keep trying to get better.
“But there’s so many good guys that are right there behind me that I’ve got to continue to play very well if I want to stay in that position.”
Taking his second career major title would make this a “great year”, Johnson said.
“I feel like the course sets up well for me. I feel like the game’s in pretty good form,” he said. “It would be a very great accomplishment. It’s definitely something I really want to do is get that second major.
“It would mean a great deal. I’ve had a really good year so far. I think it would make it into a great year.”