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Dustin Johnson tees off at the PGA Tour Championship
Dustin Johnson tees off at the PGA Tour Championship. (GeekWire photos / Kevin Lisota)

ATLANTA, GA. — Dustin Johnson is looking to cap off his best season yet on the PGA Tour with a victory this week at the Tour Championship and a FedEx Cup title. He is also the leading contender for the 2016 Player of the Year award.

So how’d Johnson go from one of the top professional golfers to arguably the best?

Analyzing data has played a key role for the 2016 U.S. Open champ, specifically to help improve one part of his game that was lacking: wedge play.

Tom Alter - PGA Tour VP of Communications
Tom Alter.

Tom Alter, vice president of communications at the PGA Tour and a bonafide golf geek, sat down with GeekWire at the Tour Championship this week in Atlanta to explain how the tour collects and analyzes a bevy of statistics.

While this data is used heavily in broadcasts and for fans, it has also found a home with players. Alter said some players now employ statisticians and “number crunchers” to find out how they can score better on the course.

“There is a whole new generation of players that can see the value in taking the data and trying to use it to improve their game,” he said.

Dustin Johnson at the PGA Tour Championship
Dustin Johnson at the PGA Tour Championship

For Johnson, the statistics clearly showed a weakness in his game.

“He saw that the numbers for his wedge game were terrible — he was one of the last on the Tour,” Alter explained. “He is a perfect example of someone who looked at the data, saw an area of weakness, and worked on that to improve his game. He has seen immediate results.”

Johnson currently ranks No. 4 on the tour for approach shots from 50-to-125 yards. CBSSports noted that in 2015, Johnson ranked No. 53 for that stat category; in 2012, he ranked No. 166.

Johnson not only used the data to show him which part of his game to improve, but to fine-tune his wedges. Top-ranked competitor Jason Day, who Johnson may soon pass as the world’s No. 1 golfer, credits Johnson’s rise this year with his use of the high-tech Trackman device to monitor and improve the accuracy of his short game.

Dustin Johnson - Trackman
Dustin Johnson on the driving range at the PGA Tour Championship. TrackMan device is behind his bag recording shots.

Day told Sky Sports that Johnson, long known for his power off the tee, now spends hours during practice with the TrackMan device, which measures a variety of detailed information about a player’s swing and ball flight.

It’s helped Johnson dial in exactly how far his wedge shots are going. GolfWeek called the device a “faithful road companion” for Johnson, who is tied for the Tour Championship lead heading into Sunday’s final round at East Lake Golf Club.

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