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Dustin Johnson’s latest win in Mexico City during the WGC event held there was another glaring example showing when the immensely talented 34-year-old is clicking on all cylinders he is golf’s most dominating player. Johnson used to be known simply for prodigious skills in hitting massive tee shots. He still does that, however, his game is far more nuanced and he’s clearly demonstrating a much more complete arsenal.
His latest triumph pushed him to 20 total wins on the PGA Tour — a major achievement given the depth of talent that exists throughout professional golf globally. That overall total places him in a tie for 34th place and he’s well within striking range in getting to 30 wins if health and desire hold. Johnson’s victory also meant he has won at least one PGA Tour title in each of the 12 years he’s been on tour — a mark only surpassed by the likes of Tiger Woods (14) and Jack Nicklaus (17). When your name — and only your name — is linked to Woods and Nicklaus that’s impressive company indeed. The win in Mexico City was also his 6th WGC triumph — with only Woods having won more.
Johnson is also 5th on the all-time world ranking listings in having been world number one for 81 weeks. Among active players only Rory McIlroy is ahead of him at 95 weeks.
The issue facing Johnson is not about his talents – which are considerable — but his wherewithal to finally up his overall major count which stands at a paltry total of just one. DJ claimed the 2016 US Open at Oakmont after having taken a few well-chronicled spills prior to that win in Pennsylvania.
At last year’s US Open at Shinnecock Hills, Johnson had the 36-hole lead but a third round 77 had him take a back seat to eventual winner Brooks Koepka. Johnson then missed the cut at The Open and finish tied for 27th in the PGA. Not exactly what a superior player needs to demonstrate.
The issue is that Johnson’s place in golf will be determined now by the major events. Amazingly, McIlroy has four wins in those events — but the last coming in 2014.
The resilience DJ has shown is quite remarkable. Who can forget the final round theatrics that happened at Oakmont when rules officials met with him at the 12th tee and informed him that his actions on an earlier hole were being reviewed with a possible penalty being enforced at the round’s conclusion. Johnson did not react emotionally — something others would likely have done. He simply put his blinders on and proceeded to wallop a drive that scampered down the narrow par-5 hole. Dustin’s ability to forget the past and march on ahead is a quality that is no less impressive than the strength he puts into his tee shots.
Being able to not allow past shots or holes to linger is something few golfers — even those at the highest of levels — can successfully do. In winning his first event ever on the European Tour in Saudi Arabia earlier this year, Johnson hit his tee shot on the par-3 16th in the water during the final and managed to still walk away with no more than bogey four after hitting a recovery to 10 feet and then sinking the putt. For many golfers just the mere fact of hitting the water would likely have been disasterous and ended any possibility in nailing down the win.
The major championships are the defining mark for any golfer. Johnson’s talent is widely acknowlegded but to secure an indelible presence he will need to showcase those skills with victories in those events. Plenty of players in golf have displayed immense talent but under achieved. The names of Tom Weiskopf, Fred Couple, Davis Love III, Colin Montgomerie are just a few good examples of players who possessed quality golf games but failed to truly demonstrate a more significant record of accomplishment. Weiskopf, Couples, Love secured no more than one major win respectively and Montgomerie never won any.
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Johnson has a resolute belief in his abilities and this may be the time when he takes his game to an even higher level. Incredibly, DJ has played The Masters eight times but only has two top tens. One would think his game would fit well with Augusta National but, thus far, the record says otherwise.
This year’s US Open will return for the 6th time to Pebble Beach and the iconic layout has proven to be a winning venue for DJ with two wins during the AT&T Pro-Am, but being more known for his meltdown in the 2010 US Open when scoring a final round 82 and blowing a three-shot lead to eventual winner Graeme McDowell.
The other two major championship venues for 2019 include Bethpage’s Black Course for the May scheduled PGA Championship and The Open Championship returning for just the second time to Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland. Both are strong layouts and it’s very possible Johnson may be a factor in both of them.
Dustin Johnson is now in the prime of his golfing life. He has the grand opportunity to really take his game to an even greater height. Additional wins on the PGA Tour or elsewhere will add to his overall total and bank account but for a legacy the storyline has to include major wins. The music DJ has been playing is certainly worthwhile to hear but what comes forward now must go beyond what’s already been heard.
Winning professionally is something few can do. DJ has been spinning records successfully but the dance floor is never satisfied with what’s been played — but what’s coming up. Any good DJ knows this. It’s now up to Johnson to find the right music for the opportunity he faces because time, tide and golf wait for no one.