'Huge part of me': Woman behind rise of World No.1 golfer

Paulina Gretzky and Dustin Johnson, pictured here on the golf course.
Paulina Gretzky has been a huge part of Dustin Johnson's success. Image: Getty

Dustin Johnson has opened up about fiancee Paulina Gretzky, saying she’s been a huge part of his rise to the top of world golf.

The World No.1 will aim to crown a dazzling return to form with the second major championship of his career when the rescheduled US Open tees off on Thursday.

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Johnson, fresh from capturing the end-of-season PGA Tour playoff crown, starts as a heavy favourite ahead of the first round at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, New York.

“I'm definitely playing probably the best I've ever played,” the big-hitting 36-year-old said.

“I really feel like everything is dialled in pretty well.”

And Johnson, who has won a staggering US$67 million (AU$92 million) in career prize money, says Gretzky’s love and support has helped him unlock his full potential.

“She’s a huge part of me, our family and my success,” he told Golfweek.

“She’s home with the kids, and has been great with that, and just has been a huge supporter for me, with everything I need to do.

“She understands everything it takes to get to where you want to be and the sacrifices you have to make. Having her dad as the greatest hockey player, she understands.

“You couldn’t ask for a better partner.”

Paulina is the daughter of ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.

Together since 2013, Paulina and Johnson have two sons (Tatum, 5, and River, 3) together.

“The best thing in the world is having kids. We’re lucky to have two wonderful boys,” Johnson said.

“It’s really been amazing, watching them grow up and enjoying the time.

“For me, golf was always the most important thing. And now, it’s Paulina and the kids. And they’ll always be the most important.

“Obviously, I love the game of golf, competing and playing. But they’re the most important thing.”

Paulina Gretzky, pictured here modelling on Instagram.
Paulina Gretzky is a model and the daughter of ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. Image: Instagram

Dustin Johnson eyeing US Open glory

Johnson will need all facets of his game to be firing at a venue regarded by the likes of Tiger Woods as one of the three most challenging anywhere in the world.

But all the signs so far point to Johnson's game being where it needs to be if he is to add another US Open crown to the one won at Oakmont in 2016.

He was only narrowly beaten by compatriot Collin Morikawa at last month's PGA Championship, his fifth second-place effort at a major and third in his past five major starts.

But after that near-miss, Johnson nearly swept the US PGA playoff events, winning the Northern Trust at 30-under par, losing to Jon Rahm in a playoff on a 66-yard putt at the BMW Championship and then winning the Tour Championship to collect the FedEx Cup and a $15 million top prize.

Dustin Johnson, pictured here during practice for the US Open.
Dustin Johnson looks on during practice for the US Open at Winged Foot Golf Club. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

“It was definitely very satisfying,” Johnson said of his playoff win.

“I feel like I played pretty solid all week. It was something that I wanted to accomplish during my career.”

Johnson has never played the 7477-yard Winged Foot layout, which last hosted a major at the 2006 US Open won by Australian Geoff Ogilvy.

The US Open was postponed from June and qualifying was wiped out due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A field of 144, the smallest since 1932, was selected by exemption categories.

The tournament is also taking place without spectators, something players have had to get used since the golf circuit resumed after pandemic shutdown in June.

It’s also the first time the US Open will be played outside of June since 1931. It was last played in September in 1913, when amateur Francis Ouimet won in a playoff.

No first-time player has won the US Open since.

with AFP