Amanda Balionis has been interviewing Dustin Johnson for nearly a decade, and the CBS Sports reporter was as surprised as anyone when the newly minted Masters champion broke down and cried during their chat following his breakthrough victory at Augusta.
“Very (surprised),” Balionis told The Big Lead. “I’ve been interviewing Dustin since I started covering golf in 2011 and you kind of know what to expect.
“He’s going to answer the question that you ask and he’s going to underplay his performance and always chalk it up to executing and being in command. When he’s not playing well, he’s very honest about that too but he’s generally unemotional. Even when he won his first major there wasn’t a lot of emotion.
“I think what happened, though, is he was wearing the green jacket on the practice putting green, (2019 champion) Tiger (Woods) had just put it on him and it really just hit him in that moment that he’d accomplished his childhood dream.”
The normally stoic Johnson — who grew up barely an hour from Augusta in Irmo, South Carolina — fired a record-setting 20-under par to win the Masters for the first time in his career, breaking the tournament record of 18-under held by Tiger Woods in 1997 and Jordan Spieth in 2015.
“He grew up an hour away from this golf course. This was the one, and when I asked him the question, I think he really took himself back to when he was a little kid dreaming of the moment and it finally hit him,” Balionis said.
“It was pretty incredible to see because we usually see a very in-control Dustin Johnson and we kind of got a peek behind the curtain, which I think was wonderful.”
The 36-year-old Johnson had won one major tournament previously in his career, the 2016 US Open, and he’d finished tied for second last year at Augusta. The world’s No. 1-ranked player paused for nearly 10 seconds when he was asked on Monday what winning the Masters meant to him.
“It was clearly such a vulnerable moment for him and my job is to try to create space for the person to give their authentic feelings and emotions in that moment,” Balionis said.
“I thought he was being his most authentic self and that’s not something he always does in the public eye. I needed to give him space.
“If he can gather his words, great, but if he can’t, that silence and his reaction probably says more than words ever could … In that moment, I was going to let Dustin be exactly where he needed to be.”
This article first appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission