There’s always the Dustin Johnson factor.
No matter how many ways a tournament is analyzed leading in, no matter how many grinders feel they’ve discovered something that will give them a shot, there’s always a chance Johnson is going to make putts and avoid big mistakes and add to his growing reign as the best PGA Tour player of the past decade.
It was one of those weeks at the RBC Canadian Open in Ontario, where Johnson shot 23-under 265 to claim his 19th Tour victory and surpass Tiger Woods as the winningest player since 2008.
The World No. 1 shot 6-under 66 in the final round for the three-shot victory over Whee Kim and Byeong Hun An, a sportsmanlike margin by his standards – Johnson won the Sentry Tournament of Champions by eight shots in January and the St. Jude Classic by six shots last month.
He missed the cut for the first time in a year at the British Open but flipped the switch from the get-go at Glen Abbey in its final year as host course to win for the third time this season. Johnson also became the first player to win three times or more in three consecutive seasons since Woods (2005-09).
The timing couldn’t be better entering the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, where he won in 2016, one week ahead of the PGA Championship at Bellerive.
Johnson is now tied with names such as Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw and Ernie Els at 19 career wins and could move up the list any time he tees it up. Any week can be his week because he’s clearly playing a different game than most on Tour.
Just look at his response when asked about making a quick transition from a classic links course like Carnoustie to Glen Abbey.
“It’s still golf. You’re playing numbers,” Johnson said. “No matter where you’re playing at, you’re still trying to fly it a certain number. … Obviously you play it very different than here, but golf is still the same. You’ve still got to hit good shots, and you’ve still got to fly it to the right number.”
The most perplexing number at this point in Johnson’s career is one, as in one career major win. He holds 15 top-10 finishes and a host of well-documented close calls, but for his immense talent it seems odd the likes of Danny Willett, Jason Dufner and Francesco Molinari are always four rounds away from surpassing his major tally.
That’s why every major week seems like a chance for Johnson to cement his legacy, with another coming up in St. Louis. Only 10 players in golf history have won more than 19 times with one or fewer majors on the resume, and only two were born post-World War II – Lanny Wadkins and Davis Love III.
There’s not much left to say about Johnson’s physical abilities and mental toughness. Analysts use every superlative in the book to describe both and after each win, he’s the talk of the golfing world on Monday.
Then Thursday comes along and the chatter fades. He’ll never make news for a press conference sound bite and there’s no running narrative like a Career Grand Slam chase to follow.
At age 34 and clearly in top physical shape, Johnson has plenty of time to change that. The PGA Championship is his next chance to turn a great career into something more, something that will keep the conversation going long after his playing days are over. Gwk