An­drew Cot­ter

As DJ steps out of Paulina’s In­sta­gram shadow, can he fill the gap left by Tiger?

Today's Golfer (UK) - - First Tee -

‘DJ has just 13 years to go to reach Tiger’s record of 683 weeks atop the world rank­ings’

Ial­ways like to give you an idea of the back­ground to my writ­ing this col­umn – some con­text to my monthly ram­blings. So I am cur­rently sit­ting on my sofa with our new­est puppy, Ma­bel, who in­sists on join­ing me as some sort of sube­d­i­tor, paw­ing oc­ca­sion­ally at the key­board of my lap­top. Some of her writ­ing is ac­tu­ally quite good, although per­haps with an overde­pen­dence on gravy bones as a sub­ject mat­ter.

I am also jug­gling many thoughts in my lim­ited-ca­pac­ity brain – not only this col­umn but prep for The Boat Races which take place the day be­fore trav­el­ling to Au­gusta.

With re­gard to The Masters, Dustin John­son is cur­rently a strong favourite. My money would be more likely to set­tle on Jor­dan Spi­eth or Phil Mick­el­son. And it also looks as if Ma­bel has just tried to ham­mer out the name Je­unghun Wang on the key­board – but then, she is a 15-week-old Labrador and there­fore an id­iot.

How­ever, we are not here to pre­view the Masters, for by the time you read this it will be done and dusted – Je­unghun Wang will prob­a­bly be the cham­pion and Ma­bel will be wear­ing a lit­tle crown and sit­ting on top of an enor­mous pile of squeaky toys.

It is in­stead a chance to talk about Dustin John­son – the man who, at the time of writ­ing, holds a lead at the top of the world rank­ings the size of which has only been beaten by Woods and Mcil­roy in the last 20 years.

But what are the best fea­tures of the 20th man to hold the num­ber one spot and be the flag-bearer for golf? What cat­e­gory would you choose if you were play­ing Top Trumps on world num­ber one golfers? Well let’s have a think ....

● CHARISMA You have barely said the word be­fore your op­po­nent is tak­ing your card in his grubby hands. He could have bran­dished either Seve or Greg Nor­man, who traded the num­ber one po­si­tion in the early days of of­fi­cial rank­ings. In fact he could have been hold­ing Adam Scott and it would still have been close. This is not John­son’s strong point. ● MA­JORS WON If you chose this you might think you would strug­gle with John­son’s soli­tary vic­tory in the US Open last year – but in fact six other men reached the top with just one while Luke Don­ald and Lee West­wood have achieved it with­out even break­ing their Ma­jor duck. ● POWER Now we’re talk­ing, as John­son is the epit­ome of the mod­ern, lengthy game. No doubt, given today’s equip­ment, Greg Nor­man would have been able to shift it a fair old way, but John­son

has been in the top two big­gest hit­ters on tour for the past five years. Mcil­roy is in front so far this sea­son, but chances are that DJ is win­ning you a card here. ● GLAM­OROUS PART­NER John­son goes from strength to strength as his sig­nif­i­cant other is Paulina Gret­zky, model daugh­ter of Wayne Gret­zky, the great­est ice-hockey player of all-time. Her work ap­pears to con­sist mainly of post­ing In­sta­gram footage of her in var­i­ous states of un­dress with the oc­ca­sional cameo from DJ. If you have John­son’s card this is a rock solid cat­e­gory, although it’s com­pli­cated as many of the play­ers have an as­ter­isk lead­ing to a sub-sec­tion of ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion. Best just to award the vic­tory to Dustin and move on. ● HEIGHT Win­ner. In fact, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial heights, John­son is the tallest of all 20 of the world num­ber-one play­ers, edg­ing out Nick Faldo and Ernie Els by a cou­ple of cen­time­tres. Un­til Chris Wood steps up his game John­son will reign supreme here. Your op­po­nent gnashes his teeth in im­po­tent rage but can have no ar­gu­ment as he hands over Ian Woos­nam.

● RECOG­NI­TION Hmmm… You might be in trou­ble here. Tiger would, of course, crush all chal­lengers while Nor­man, Balles­teros and Mcil­roy would do rea­son­ably well. Dustin might get a few selfie re­quests in Florida coun­try clubs, but world­wide he’s not go­ing to do it against those guys. More likely answers from mem­bers of the pub­lic when shown a photo would be ‘I’m not sure – he looks a bit like Mike Ne­smith from the Mon­kees’. Or, ‘Isn’t he the guy in the back­ground of Paulina’s In­sta­gram videos?’ ● LONGEVITY A se­ri­ous cat­e­gory to fin­ish. Is Dustin John­son go­ing to stay on top for a while? The short­est reign be­longs to Tom Lehman, who had one glo­ri­ous week at the sum­mit in 1997. By com­par­i­son it was tes­ta­ment to Luke Don­ald’s con­sis­tency that he was world num­ber one for 56 weeks. As for John­son? He’s cur­rently on six, with just 13 years

to go to reach Tiger’s record of 683. So that is DJ. Can he be a player to ex­cite and en­gage spec­ta­tors? Well on the course he can, sim­ply be­cause of the way he hits the ball. Off the course, per­haps not. But we ex­pect too much. No­body fares well in com­par­i­son to Tiger. John­son is just the lat­est in a line of very tal­ented play­ers to step into the yawn­ing gap left by Woods’ demise. What’s more, as I look at In­sta­gram again – purely for re­search pur­poses you un­der­stand – I no­tice that he likes dogs as well. And that’s good enough for me.

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