AUGUSTA — In November, Austin Johnson was a freshly minted College of Charleston graduate looking for a job.
Entering this week’s Masters at Augusta National, the Irmo High School graduate is maybe the hottest caddie on the PGA Tour. That his older brother Dustin is in the midst of what is shaping up to be his best season of professional golf is no coincidence in either direction.
“It has nothing to do with me,” Austin Johnson said. “I just enjoy being out there and watching him play, and he has been playing beautifully. It’s been a lot of fun to watch.”
Austin Johnson has been watching from up close and personal since the World Golf Championships in Shanghai, China, in November. Dustin first tried out his brother on his bag in that event and won with a 24-under. Suddenly, Austin had a full-time job.
“I was doing the whole job search thing,” Austin said. “I found a pretty good one.”
Dustin Johnson has barely slowed down since Shanghai, posting four more top six finishes and winning $3.3 million in nine events this season.
“I have been playing really well all year, got a lot of confidence right now,” Dustin said. “The game’s perfect. Hitting it well. Putting it well. I am looking forward to getting it started here.”
Dustin enters Augusta third in the season’s FedEx Cup and ranked No. 11 in the world. Las Vegas ranks him the sixth favorite here at 20-to-1. While Austin, who shoots between 75 and 85 most days, offers little in terms of technical assistance on the course, he has been a calming influence on Dustin, the Columbia natives say.
“We get along so well,” said Dustin Johnson, who graduated from Dutch Fork High. “He is just starting out so he’s not giving me any advice really. It helps me go through the process a little bit more. I double-check all the yardages. I’m pulling my own club, so it helps me think a little bit better.”
Austin replaced Bobby Brown as Dustin’s caddie.
“I don’t care what he does,” Dustin said. “As long as he carries the bag and keeps up with me, we will be alright.”
Austin, who played three seasons of basketball at Charleston Southern (averaging 4.5 points per game in 2008-09, his best season), is fine with those marching orders.
“He’s matured,” Austin said. “He knows what he is doing pretty well out there. He doesn’t need me to say much.”
What he does say needs to be well-timed though, which comes natural for a brother, Austin said.
“I keep him focused. I know his personality,” Austin said. “I know when to stay out of the way, when to chime in. I feel like we just have a good mix so far. As much time as we spend together on the road, if you don’t get along with your guy, off the course, on the course, we love the same things and enjoy spending time together.”
Dustin, who had his best Masters finish last year with a 13th-place finish, has recovered from the back issue that he listed as the reason for his withdrawal from his last event. He pulled out of the Shell Houston Open earlier this month after a first round 80.
“It was just a little stiff, no injury or anything like that. I am feeling great, 100 percent,” he said.
Dustin Johnson is playing his fifth Masters, but this is Austin’s first time inside the ropes.
“It’s pretty special,” he said. “I’ve been in awe all week at how beautiful it is. I love it.”
Austin’s new job seems to be a full-time gig. He’s in no danger of being thrown over when his brother’s hot streak ends, Dustin said.
“No, no, no, he’s on the bag,” he said. “If we don’t play well, it’s not his fault.”
Austin Johnson called the Shanghai win “probably the best day of my life.”
“Hopefully this week we will get to share another special moment together,” he said.