Advice for the new No. 1: Enjoy the view
February 19, 2017
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
- February 19, 2017
- Dustin Johnson took over the World No. 1 with his win at Riviera. (Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR)
PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – When Dustin Johnson wakes up Monday morning, he plans to jump online and look at the Official World Golf Ranking. For the first time, his name will be at the top.
And he won’t be sure how he got there.
“I don’t really understand it,” Johnson said of the world ranking formula, “but I can read the 1, 2, 3. I guess that’s all that matters.”
Actually, all that really matters is to win tournaments. Everything else then takes care of itself. On a long Sunday at Riviera, Johnson did exactly that, cranking out 36 holes to claim the weather-plagued Genesis Open for the first time. The win, the 13th of his career, means he has won at least once in each of his first 10 seasons on TOUR.
Only Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have done better. Go ahead and take a moment to let that sink in.
Johnson also becomes the 20th player to assume the title of world No. 1 since the ranking system was launched at the 1986 Masters. Of those previous 19, six were in the field this week at Riviera -- including Johnson’s immediate predecessor, Jason Day, who gives up the top spot after a reign of 47 consecutive weeks.
Since being No. 1 is new for Johnson, did Day have any advice on how to handle it?
“I think he’s going to do just fine,” Day said. “I think he’s won every single year that he’s been out here. That’s the formula. You’ve got to win every single year and you’ve got to win as much as you can. He’s done such a good job of doing that, and to be able to not only do that but play well consistently – whatever he’s doing, he just needs to keep doing it.”
Dustin Johnson starts Round 4 with back-to-back birdies at the Genesis Open
Jordan Spieth, who’s had four stints at No. 1, said his advice for Johnson was to make sure and put the ranking in its proper perspective. Or as he put it, “To not listen to everyone telling you that No. 1 is something more significant than really anything else.
“When I’ve talked to him and from what I’ve seen and read, it’s certainly a goal of his to be in that position, but that wasn’t something that’s going to kind of wear and tear on him as he steps on the tee anywhere. He’s been on TOUR for a long time, he’s seen a lot … he’s right at the prime of his career and he’s showing it.”
Luke Donald became No. 1 in May of 2011 after a European Tour win. He held onto the top spot for 40 consecutive weeks; cumulatively, he’s spent 56 weeks at the top.
“I think Dustin will do just fine,” Donald said. “A lot of people ask me, was it hard being No. 1? My answer was no. You’re playing great golf to get there, you’re high in confidence every week, you feel like good things are going to happen. Just enjoy it. Enjoy being No. 1 and try to stay there as long as you can.”
Day’s fellow Australian, Adam Scott, became No. 1 during an off-week in May of 2014, then celebrated by winning at Colonial. He held the top spot for 11 weeks before giving way to Rory McIlroy. Scott’s advice sounded very similar to Donald’s.
“Just enjoy it,” he said. “I think as we’ve seen since Tiger really dominated the position, no one’s staying there too long. Jason has been there quite awhile. Luke Donald held on quite awhile. … There just isn’t that separation between the top players that there was for that long period of time when Tiger was far, far ahead.”
Indeed. Woods, who spent a cumulative 683 total weeks at No. 1, held the position for a record 281 consecutive weeks until the final day of October, 2010, when Lee Westwood took over. Since then, the No. 1 position has changed hands 24 times in the ensuing 330 weeks.
In other words, don’t get accustomed to it.
“I think he’s only going to overtake by a little bit,” Spieth said “It’s a small margin. No one’s really separated themselves in the top six or seven in the world. If he were to fall back out of it because Jason or Rory play really well in a couple of weeks, it’s nothing on Dustin for that. It just means that it was really close.”
Having said that, Johnson certainly has the talent to remain at the top for an extended period. His major breakthrough last year at the U.S. Open finally got him over the hump, finally eliminated the demons that seemed to plague him in the big events. “I had been so close so many times in majors,” Johnson said, “that you almost think, ‘Well, am I ever going to win one?’ But got it done.”
He’s won three more times since then and will be one of the heavy Masters favorites. He’s finished tied for sixth and tied for fourth in his last two trips to Augusta National.
Scott, who played with Johnson in the first two rounds at Riviera, noticed something different this week.
“He’s that world-class player who can have good scores even when he’s not hitting it that well,” Scott said. “The maturity of his game is showing up. When it all clicks, it’s tough for anyone to run with him.”
Added Day: “If he keeps playing the way he’s playing, we’ve got to all pick our games up to try and compete against him because he’s playing some good golf.”
This week, Johnson played winning golf, threatening the tournament scoring record before sticking it in cruise control on the back nine Sunday. In the end, he won by a comfortable five-stroke margin that seemed much bigger on a day without drama.
“I want to win the golf tournament I’m playing,” he said. “If I get to No. 1 there winning the golf tournament, then obviously that’s a bonus.”
The bonus has become a reality. Johnson is now the world’s best golfer. How long he stays there is difficult to predict, but based on the way he played at Riviera, it might be an extended time.
Just don’t ask him to figure it out. He doesn’t have time to do the math. He’s too busy winning golf tournaments.
Dustin Johnson's interview after winning the Genesis Open