Monday 25 February 2019 5:26 pm

Sam Torrance: Sublime Dustin Johnson is looking hard to beat as The Players Championship and Masters loom

When Dustin Johnson hit an iron out of bounds at the 14th hole while trying to deny Darren Clarke his Open Championship at Royal St George’s in 2011, we wondered if he would ever do anything. Now look at him.

Johnson claimed his 20th PGA Tour title on Sunday at the WGC-Mexico Championship. In doing so he became only the fifth man to reach that mark before his 35th birthday, along with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Johnny Miller and Tom Watson.

The American has won every year that he has played on the PGA Tour – that’s 12 seasons in a row – and is already a multiple winner in 2019, having also won on the European Tour. This victory wasn’t enough to replace Justin Rose as world No1, but due to the mechanics of the rankings he is certain to hit the top spot again next week.

He got a couple of breaks on Sunday in Mexico – getting relief at the fourth while Rory McIlroy, his nearest challenger, didn’t at the next hole – but Johnson was sublime on his way to a five-shot win.

The course at the Club de Golf Chapultepec is a tricky one. There’s the altitude, 7,800 feet above sea level, and there isn’t a flat hole; they’re either playing up or down or round a corner. You have to be on top of your game, and Johnson certainly was.

He had a difficult start to the final round, too, with McIlroy cutting his lead to two shots after the first three holes. But this is where his wonderful attitude counts for so much. Johnson is supremely confident in his game, so he just cruises along, safe in the knowledge that the good stuff will come.

At his best, Johnson is really extraordinary, a wonderful athlete who hits it so far and now has a tremendous short game. With The Players Championship at Sawgrass just a couple of weeks away and the Masters only a month after that, he is going to be tough to beat.

It was almost exhibition stuff from Johnson and McIlroy on the back nine, which both played in five under par, and although Rory couldn’t catch the man in front he will take a lot of positives from the tournament.

Final rounds have been a weakness for the Northern Irishman lately, so the fact that he played so well when it was needed was very encouraging. It’s a much better runner-up finish than you might think.

For the first time in his career, McIlroy has posted four top-five finishes in a row and I still believe it’s a question of when, not if, he starts converting them into wins. When he does, it would be no surprise if he went and won four or five events, and he will be very excited about heading to Sawgrass and Augusta soon.


McIlroy made nine bogeys and one double bogey in Mexico, to Johnson’s one bogey and one double, yet still shot 16 under par. Obviously if he lost the bogeys the wins would come, but it’s also the nature of his aggressive, attacking golf, which is very exciting. Johnson scores more steadily, but everyone is different and Rory takes any setbacks well when he’s on the course.

Golf fans have it good at the moment, with a lot of big names hitting form already this season, including Johnson, McIlroy and Rose.

Paul Casey and fellow Englishman Ian Poulter have also impressed and their tie for third place in Mexico saw that continue. Sergio Garcia, a shot further behind, shared sixth, while Woods had his best finish of 2019, in 10th.

Tiger looks good and there are no questions about his comeback any more; he is back, and he will win again this year – the only question is which tournament.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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