John­son wins de­but as top-ranked player

Three straight pars se­cure Mex­ico Cham­pi­onship.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS -

Dustin John­son didn’t flinch when a chal­lenge ar­rived out of nowhere Sun­day, play­ing mis­take-free over the fi­nal five holes to win the Mex­ico Cham­pi­onship in his de­but as the No. 1 player in the world.

John­son’s four-shot lead go­ing to the back nine turned into a one-shot deficit when Span­ish rookie Jon Rahm ran off an ea­gle and two birdies at Cha­pul­te­pec Golf Club in Mex­ico City. John­son caught him with a birdie on the par-5 15th, and closed with three solid pars for a 3-un­der 68.

Rahm had gone 59 holes with­out a three-putt un­til tak­ing two in a row at the worst time to fall back.

John­son’s last test was from a fair­way bunker on the 18th, and he blasted that out to the mid­dle of the green for a two-putt par and a oneshot vic­tory over Tommy Fleet­wood of Eng­land.

“I didn’t feel like I putted my best, but I re­ally hit the ball well,” John­son said. “I played just well enough, be­cause I won by one.”

John­son be­came the fifth player to win in his first tour­na­ment as No. 1 in the world. His fourth World Golf Cham­pi­onship ti­tle is sec­ond on the ca­reer list be­hind Tiger Woods, who won 18 times since the se­ries be­gan in 1999.

It was quite the con­so­la­tion prize for the 26-yearold Fleet­wood.

His 40-foot birdie putt on the fi­nal hole for a 66 put him alone in sec­ond and se­cured a spot in the Mas­ters for the first time. He moves to No. 35 in the world and is cer­tain to stay in the top 50 over the next three weeks be­fore the cut­off to get an in­vi­ta­tion to Au­gusta Na­tional.

Rahm’s two late bo­geys gave him a 68 and a tie for third with Ross Fisher, who closed with three straight birdies for a 65. That as­sures Fisher a place in the next WGC event in three week at the Dell Match Play.

John­son looked as though he had this wrapped up when he made the turn.

He went long on the par-5 sixth, over the pin and up on a hill into the gallery, leav­ing what ap­peared to be a tough flop shot. The gallery ropes were down, and John­son asked that the rope be re­moved from the ground so he could play a chip down the slope and onto the green. He pulled it off beau­ti­fully and made birdie, then rolled in a slid­ing 30-foot birdie putt on No. 8 and a 10-foot birdie on No. 9.

And then just like that, his lead was gone.

Rahm made an ea­gle putt from 15 feet on No. 11, and John­son three-putted the 12th and made an­other bo­gey on the 13th from a bunker. They were tied at that point, and Rahm briefly went ahead with his birdie on the 15th. That was as close as he got. John­son was steady right to the end to cap­ture his 14th ca­reer vic­tory on the PGA Tour, and his sec­ond straight. He reached No. 1 in the world two weeks ago with a five-shot vic­tory at Riviera. And ex­cept for a few ner­vous mo­ments on the back nine, he looked just as dom­i­nant.

The most re­cent player to win in his de­but at No. 1 was Adam Scott at the Colo­nial in 2014.

“It’s a tough spot to be in,” John­son said. “There’s a lot of pres­sure on you. I came out and played re­ally well.”

LPGA Tour: In­bee Park used her self-de­scribed “amaz­ing” putting to win the HSBC Women’s Cham­pi­ons tour­na­ment in Sin­ga­pore by one stroke Sun­day af­ter clos­ing with an 8-un­der 64.

The South Korean fin­ished at 19-un­der 269 at the Sen­tosa Golf Club, one shot clear of her play­ing part­ner Ariya Ju­tanu­garn, who was sec­ond af­ter a 66.

Sung Hyun Park (68) was third, a shot fur­ther back, while overnight leader Michelle Wie dropped into a tie for fourth af­ter a 72.

Wie was two in front af­ter mak­ing birdies on the sec­ond and third holes be­fore her round un­rav­eled when she four-putted for a dou­ble-bo­gey on the par-5 fifth.

“Stuff hap­pens some­times,” Wie said. “Some­times you just 4-putt and you’ve just got to carry on with your life.”

Aus­tralasian PG Tour:

Aus­tralian Jar­ryd Fel­ton won the New Zealand PGA Cham­pi­onship on Sun­day with a birdie on the first hole of a three-way play­off with com­pa­triot Josh Younger and New Zealand’s Ben Camp­bell.

Euro­pean PGA Tour:

Dean Burmester fin­ished with a 65 for a con­vinc­ing three-shot vic­tory at the Tsh­wane Open in Pre­to­ria, South Africa, his first Euro­pean Tour ti­tle.

The South African came from a shot off the lead overnight to win on 18-un­der-par 266 at Pre­to­ria Coun­try Club.

JUSTIN HEIMAN / GETTY IMAGES

Dustin John­son cel­e­brates af­ter par­ring the 18th hole to win the Mex­ico Cham­pi­onship.

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