Johnson hits new heights with title in Mexico City
Win leaves no doubt following his recent jump to No. 1 rank.
Fresh off his victory at Riviera that elevated Dustin Johnson to the top of the world ranking, the question was how he would handle the expectations and attention that come with being No. 1.
“I’ve only been No. 1 for about 30 minutes,” he said. “Ask me in a couple of weeks.”
Two weeks later, there was no need.
Johnson faced the strongest field of the year at the Mexico Championship. He was so preoccupied with how far the ball was flying at nearly 7,800 feet that he played only 18 holes over two practice days at Chapultepec Golf Club. The greens were so perplexing that he converted only nine of 17 putts from inside 5 feet, and he missed six putts from the 6-foot range or closer in the opening round alone. And he still won. Johnson is not obsessed with the world ranking. But he understands he is the target now, and he embraces it.
“You look at the leaderboard, there’s a few names you don’t want to see,” Johnson said. “Mine would be one of them.”
He doesn’t claim that measure of intimidation to be his alone.
No one wanted to see Rory McIlroy’s name anywhere near the top when his three straight victories in the summer of 2014 were a World Golf Championship sandwiched between two majors. No one wanted any part of Jordan Spieth in 2015 when he was pursuing the Grand Slam, or Jason Day when he was winning seven times in 17 tournaments, including a record score in the PGA Championship.
“The competition is so good out there it’s a joke,” Johnson said. “There’s a few guys out there that have a target.”
None is bigger at the moment.
Johnson has earned five PGA Tour victories in his last 15 starts dating to the U.S. Open last summer at Oakmont. His other victories were two World Golf Championships, a FedEx Cup playoff event and the Genesis Open at Riviera, which had the strongest field of regular PGA Tour events.
He closed with a 3-under 68 on Sunday, his 12th consecutive round under par.
Dating to the start of 2016, he has finished among the top 10 in 20 out of 29 tournaments worldwide.
“He has the potential to crack on for the next few years or a decade and be the dominant player, if he plays the golf we’ve seen him play,” Paul Casey said.
The PGA Tour leans on a popular category called “strokes gained” that measures how a player performs compared with the rest of the field from tee-to-green and with putting. Casey has created his own statistic for Johnson that can’t be measured.
“Nobody ever talks about strokes gained mentally,” Casey said. “Strokes gained attitude, he’s probable No. 1.”
Johnson has 14 victories in his 10th year on the PGA Tour, which includes four World Golf Championships, the most of anyone except for Tiger Woods, who won 18 of them. The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook listed him as the 6-1 favorite to win the Masters.
Odds are, he will be No. 1 when he gets there.