Over the course of winning five straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships, Jimmie Johnson has become known for being a competitor whose intense focus – or "having the blinders on," as he often has said – is a key to his success.
And as Johnson prepares to once again play in Wednesday's Pro-Am in advance of this weekend's PGA Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, I asked the driver whether that focus carried over to his golf game.
"I can see...the parallels between racing and the mindset needed in golf," he said Tuesday afternoon at Quail Hollow Club.
But, he added, "That focus I find really aggravates me in golf because I know how I'd like to hit the ball and I know where I want the ball to go. When it doesn't go there, I can easily frustrate myself and make my round of golf an angry one."
Johnson has befriended golfer Anthony Kim from a previous Pro-Am (Johnson doesn't yet know who he'll play with on Wednesday), and said the mentality between pro golfing and pro race-car driving is somewhat similar. But he's determined that in order to enjoy golf as a hobby, he needs to relax a little bit.
"I decided after I got my handicap that it is what it is, and that's what I need to try to be each time out," he said. "I still get mad from time to time, but since I've established my handicap, I've learned to enjoy the game a lot more."
And what exactly is Johnson's handicap?
He literally took a gulp of air before answering.
"Twenty-one," he said, then laughed. "I had to swallow before I said it."
Johnson said what frustrates him the most about golf is when he hits a great tee shot and gets the hole started on the right note, but then screws it up.
"You're sitting there where you need to be and you're all excited about your second shot and (you) top it or do something stupid there and waste a good opportunity," he said. "That's when I really get fired up at myself."
The press conference moderator smiled and turned toward Johnson.
"That's very common," he told the driver pleasantly.