Dustin Johnson won his third consecutive start at the WGC Dell – Matchplay on Sunday with a 1-up victory against Jon Rahm in the final. He put his best golf on display yet again to remain unbeaten since he took on the World No.1 ranking with his win at the Genesis Open.
His latest performance was the most emphatic of his three wins on the trot as he took out 4 major champions in his first five matches without going past the 16th hole. Johnson never trailed through seven matches and a 112 holes before lifting the trophy. Truly remarkable statistics.
Johnson racked up his 15th PGA Tour title which was a breeze until Sunday. However, Dustin’s first real test of the tournament came in the form of Hideto Tanihara who made him work for his place in the final. DJ warded off his challenge with an 8 foot par putt on the final green.
His Sunday didn’t get any easier after that. He faced Jon Rahm who fought right until the end and reminded us once again of his incredible talent and tenacity that has seen him rise to No. 14 in the world after a meagre 15 professional starts. However, DJ produced the goods and defeated rahm one-up having been 5 up through 8 holes earlier in the match.
The 32 year old is the first golfer to win all four of the WGC events and the first since Rory McIlroy in 2014 to win in three consecutive starts. DJ has piled up five WGC wins and is behnd only one man, Tiger Woods who has 18 wins. Yes, that’s right! 18 wins, but even Tiger hasn’t won all four of them with the HSBC Champions event in China missing from his trophy cabinet.
The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year shrugged off the question of if he believed he was beatable if he is playing his best golf by giving a blunt response of “I believe that I am not”.
The above mentioned stats all point towards the obvious truth: He is the hottest player in the world right now and will be the favourite to win the Masters entering the week.
It’s proven that he’s playing the best in the world but a valid point to consider here is that we haven’t seen Jason Day or Rory McIlroy firing on all cylinders yet this season. While Rory has been playing his way back from a rib injury, Day has been dealing with family issues with his mother having recently undergone cancer surgery.
When they’re all at their best, there’s hardly any margins between them. Let’s hope that they’re all back to their best in time for the Masters, what a show for the fans that would potentially be! Also, Jordan Spieth has a win on the PGA Tour this year and will be looking to put his Augusta demons from last year to bed once and for all with a second green jacket.
However, DJ has reached another level off late and will be undefeatable at Augusta if he plays anywhere as good as he has played in his last three starts. While there are a few players, some of them mentioned above, who have been vying for the No. 1 crown in recent times and been equally good, DJ has shown brilliance that is Tiger-esque and is in that elusive zone where golf is very simple for him.
In his last 18 events, he has six wins (including a major and three WGCs), two runner-up finishes, two more thirds and four other top 10s. Besides having an incredibly gifted athletic body, he has natural simplicity and let’s the game just happen. He doesn’t overthink things and that’s a major bonus at Augusta, where even the best players psyche themselves out.
He has always been known for his distance off the tee but what has taken him to the summit of the game is his new found pin-point accuracy with wedges, ability to hole putts when they matter and reduced or almost zero count of errors.
On the flip-side, it's easy to forget Rory winning three in a row back in 2014 (two of them majors, mind you) and Jason Day winning seven times in 17 starts in a stretch from 2015-16. So, this is not the first time someone has gone on a run like this in the post-Tiger era and when these elite few players do something like, it’s game over for everyone else.
The point here being that if Rory, Day, Hideki, Jordan or for that matter even Justin thomas find their A game, they’ll be able to keep up with Dustin Johnson at the Masters. There’s only a select few in the game who can produce stellar golf and they can all get to the same level that Dustin Johnson is at presently.
Johnson has opened up a gap of 3.79 at the top of the World Golf rankings, something that has been since Tiger’s years of domination. However, It’s not yet that it’s the beginning of someone running away with the No. 1 spot in the manner that Tiger did but Dustin will definitely be challenging for it for a long while. As mentioned above, there’s a host of players capable of going on their very own brilliant runs.
The evergreen Phil Mickelson will pose a fight at the Masters as always, he’s been playing some exceptional golf for a 46 year old who hasn’t won in almost 4 years. He putted incredibly well in Austin and still possesses plenty of length. Phil’s confidence is high and nobody knows how to play Augusta as well as he does, he’s also got a very good understanding of his golf swing ever since he moved on from Butch Harmon.
Alex Noren is also another name that could pop up on the leaderboards at Augusta, he gave DJ his toughest battle of the week before the final in Austin. He won three times last season and has the type of poise required to win at Augusta.
All in all, what is scary is that Dustin Johnson still thinks he isn’t playing his best golf and he can get better.
Dustin has ever been the No.1 player in the world heading into a major and with him now also occupying the top spot in the FedEx Cup, there will definitely be added pressure on him to get the job done. However, he hardly seems to care about being the favourite heading into the Masters, “How do I like it? I don’t care,” he said.
DJ withdrew from this week’s Shell Houston Open citing fatigue. With a combination of rest and the momentum he’s carrying, he can definitely make it his week at the Masters and capture his second major title.Published 28 Mar 2017, 16:27 IST