Joel Dahmen, No. 70 in the world rankings, has found something he’s better at than golf.
“I’m probably top 50 at staying on the couch and doing nothing,” Dahmen boasted. “I can do that as well as anyone. Lots of hours on Netflix, on my phone.”
The Clarkston native devoured “Tiger King” in one binge session. He’s tuned in to “Narcos” and mixed in the popular drama “Ozark.” He took a U-turn last Sunday and watched the first two episodes of “The Last Dance” documentary on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
“So nice to get back into the sports world,” Dahmen said.
The PGA Tour is planning to return, sans fans, June 11-14 at the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas, likely the country’s first major pro sports organization to resume competition amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Dahmen is cautiously optimistic about the revamped schedule, which includes three of the four majors.
“Sports kind of unifies us,” he said. “I look back at 9/11 and one of the iconic things I remember after that was George Bush throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium. Sports are important to the American culture. I think it would help the healing process.”
Dahmen enjoyed the best stretch of his career before sports were sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic. He posted a pair of fifth-place finishes in his most recent tournaments and had a legitimate shot at his first PGA Tour win at the Genesis Invitational at venerable Riviera Country Club.
He qualified for the British Open for the second straight year. The event was canceled, but he said his spot is assured for the 2021 Open. He has a spot locked up in the PGA Championship and was chasing a top-60 ranking and berth into the U.S. Open for the second consecutive year.
Dahmen was tied for 37th after the opening round when The Players Championship was scrapped March 12. A strong finish likely would have bumped Dahmen into the top 64 and a spot in the World Golf Championships match play.
“Selfishly, I definitely wanted to keep playing,” said Dahmen, 37th on the FedEx points list. “I was probably playing the most consistent, best golf of my life, back-to-back top fives at good events with good fields, but I’m also pretty good at rolling with the punches. I’m not an expert on this. I’ll listen to people smarter than me and try to be ready when it’s safe to go.”
Dahmen’s stats reflect his sharp start to the season. The strength of his game has always been ball-striking, and he’s been even better in those categories. He said his putting, fickle at times, “was a little better, more consistent.”
Perhaps the biggest enhancement to his game has come between his ears. Dahmen works on his mental approach with Oregon State golf coach Jon Reehorn. The two discussed Dahmen’s goals for the season – the ceiling and the floor.
“He said most people end up where they’re going to be OK at the end of the year, where they can sleep at night,” Dahmen said. “I’d like to be top 70 in FedEx (points). That’s probably where I adjusted that a little bit. I expect to be on leaderboards.”
That’s exactly where he’s been hanging out most of the calendar year. He’s made six straight cuts. He tied for 12th with a 68-66 weekend at the Sony Open in Hawaii. He shared 14th at Pebble Beach.
After making birdies on the 15th and 16th holes at Riviera, Dahmen’s birdie putt on No. 17 to grab a share of the lead just slid past the edge of the cup. His new mindset was on full display over the final stretch of holes, including No. 18 when, needing a birdie, he took dead aim at the traditional Sunday flag located on a small shelf.
“I hit a really good putt (on 17),” he said. “It wasn’t an easy putt, but it was so much fun to be in the hunt. I didn’t hit my best iron on 18, but for the first time I wasn’t playing for a paycheck. I could have aimed 30 feet right. I was proud of taking on the pin.”
He took that mentality into the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, a tough course with a U.S. Open-like setup. Dahmen, who seems to shine on demanding tracks, earned a share of fifth.
Dahmen’s time during the break from the PGA Tour is occupied by more than Netflix. He and wife, Lona, are soaking up the warm weather at their Scottsdale, Arizona, home at a time when they’re usually traveling from tournament to tournament.
Lona is an “incredible chef,” so Dahmen contributes smoked meats on a Traeger grill or Green Egg. He’s also stepped up his fitness game. He’s made gains in strength and flexibility.
“I could just see myself coming back so out of shape,” the 32-year-old said. “I can gain weight and never in my life could I gain weight. This is a time where I can be sore three, four days at a time and push my body.”
There was even a promising development in his love-hate relationship with his Peloton bike.
“I took my first ride in forever last week,” he said. “That thing kicks my butt because the lady or the guy on the screen is yelling at you, and you feel like you can’t let her down. I’m trying to do it twice a week.”
Meanwhile, Dahmen’s game resembles that of recreational golfers in at least one way. Of course, there’s no comparison to the numbers he pencils onto the scorecard. His final score often begins with a ‘6’ while most amateurs usually start with an ‘8’, ‘9’ or the dreaded ‘1’.
Like many golf enthusiasts, Dahmen plays once a week with his buddies, possibly with a few greenbacks at stake.
“I play with the same six guys every Friday,” Dahmen said. “I’m playing once a week, no real practicing. They’re just great guys and decent players.”
Dahmen tries to keep golf separate from his home life, so he doesn’t have a hitting net or putting green in his backyard. He’ll amp up his practice sessions with Rob Rashell, director of instruction at TPC Scottsdale, and hit the course more in May if the PGA Tour remains on schedule for a June return.
Dahmen is signed up for the Scottsdale Open in mid-May. The event has 150-plus players, including dozens of PGA and Champions Tour players. Dahmen won the tournament in 2017.
He wants to pick up where he left off in March when the Tour resumes in Fort Worth, followed by the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town and Travelers Championship in Connecticut.
“Those first three tournaments are some of my favorites,” Dahmen said. “I’m going to prepare over the next month like we’re teeing it up in June.”
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