One of the more interesting dynamics in sport is to see how an athlete reacts to being on top. It’s one thing when you are making a run at the top. It’s another thing entirely when you are the one with the bullseye on your back. It might only be one event, but for this week at least, Dustin Johnson didn’t seem to be phased at all by being on top of the rankings.
It didn’t always look pretty, but like Fowler the week before, DJ did what he needed to do to secure a win and give himself even more of a cushion at the top of the Official World Golf Rankings.
“Starting the beginning of last year my game really has felt solid and it hasn’t really let up any,” said Johnson, whose lead in the Official Golf World Ranking has now been extended to a decisive 2.36 points advantage. “I’ve got a lot of confidence in the game. I feel like I’m controlling my ball very well and I feel like my driver is a little straighter, which if I can drive it straight I’m going to play well every week.”
Early in the week, it seemed like Johnson might succumb to the new pressures of being at the top. For the first two days he couldn’t seem to buy a putt. He battled though and found himself in the final group come Sunday, just one off the lead. The putter heated up for Dustin on Sunday too. He had 15-footer at the second, a 5 1/2-footer at 6, a 29-footer at the eighth and 8-footer at the ninth. All were birdie putts that helped him build a four shot lead at one point.
When you have that bullseye on your back though, everyone is going to be gunning for you. Sunday was the perfect example of that. While DJ was building up his lead, the top golfers in the world were trying to run him down.
Justin Thomas started the day with a one shot lead and stayed in contention for most of the day. Rory Mcllroy, fresh off a 6 week stint on the DL with a rib injury, started the day in the final group with Thomas and DJ before settling for a T-7 finish. Phil Mickelson, who couldn’t seem to find a fairway off the tee on the weekend if his life depended on it, played some of the best recovery golf of his career and continued to be a threat Saturday and Sunday, ultimately finishing in a tie for 7th with Rory.
Then there was Jon Rahm. Rahm, who seemingly came out of nowhere with a back nine charge, ran Dustin down and even briefly held the lead late. In what felt like a possible preview of Sunday at next year’s Ryder Cup. Rahm and Johnson went shot for shot late, before a few bogeys at 16 and 17 did Rahm in.
In the end, Dustin fought them all off, hitting clutch putts coming home to re-gain the lead and then hold on to it in the end, proving that, at least for one week, he can handle the pressures of being the top dog.
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