Planet Golf — 22 February 2019 by GW staff and news services
DJ glides to victory; 20th career

MEXICO CITY – Death. Taxes. Dustin Johnson.

There is a certain inevitability to it when Johnson has all facets of his A-game, as was the case at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship this week. In those cases, and especially at Club de Golf Chapultepec, he might just be impossible to beat.

“No contest,” said runner-up Rory McIlroy. “Especially here. His drives are going 380 down the middle of the fairway and he’s holing most of the putts he looks at.”

(Johnson led the field in Strokes Gained: Putting on the tricky poa annua greens.)

“I just think that this place, it definitely favors someone who’s driving it well,” said Justin Thomas, who tied his own course record from last year (62) in finishing 9th. “But as good as DJ’s wedge game is, it’s a pretty easy game for him sometimes.”

Johnson’s 20th PGA TOUR title was not a squeaker. His 66 gave him a five-shot win over McIlroy (67, 16-under) as he moved from 60th to 8th in the FedExCup. The audio for this victory was much the same as it was for his first one here, in 2017: Cries of “Dusteen! Dusteen!” And his driver crushing moonshots into the thin air, his ball rattling around in the cup.

He runs his streak to 12 consecutive seasons with at least one win since he turned pro in 2008.

“I’m definitely very proud of myself for that,” Johnson said. “It’s a big accomplishment. It’s tough enough to get one win out here, and to win every year I’ve been on TOUR is, yeah, it’s something that I work hard on and I want to do.

“I want to keep it going as long as I can,” he added, “but it’s been a lot of hard work and it’s paying off right now.”

Paul Casey (65), Ian Poulter (68) and Kiradech Aphibarnrat (68) tied for third at 11 under.

With his 20 wins, Johnson becomes eligible for a Lifetime Membership on TOUR as soon as he completes 15 full seasons. He is currently in his 12th.

Woods struggled on the greens for the second straight day. He didn’t have a four-putt this time but was deep in negative numbers in Strokes Gained: Putting. He missed birdie putts of just over 5 feet at Nos. 15 and 16, and a 13-footer on the 18th. Still, the result marked his first top-10 finish of the season in his third start. “Well, each finish got a little bit better,” he said. “Unfortunately, I just did not putt well the last couple weeks and it has not been very good.”

For the winner, there were few such problems.

If there was any doubt about this one, it came in the first three holes, with McIlroy playing them in 1 under and Johnson going 1 over. The lead was down to two.

Was Johnson nervous?

“A little bit,” he said. “I definitely could feel it. It was something that — obviously, Rory’s playing well. I know I’ve got to play well. So absolutely. I was nervous before I teed off today because it means something to me. I want to win and I want to come out here and perform well.”

McIlroy dropped a shot at the fourth hole, falling back to three behind.

Then came an odd sequence of events.

Johnson got relief from the base of a tree at the par-4 fifth hole, where a cart path interfered with his stance. He made par. “That was a good break,” he said.

McIlroy didn’t get relief from the base of a tree at the par-5 sixth after arguing that his stance, too, was hindered by a cart path. He turned his club toe-down and pitched out left-handed. Then, going for the green from 235 yards, hit his third shot in the water.

The mistake was a costly one—he took a drop and got up and down for bogey; Johnson birdied to build his lead to five—and one of many. McIlroy led the field with 25 birdies for the week, but struggled to keep the bogeys off the card. Johnson, conversely, had just one gaffe through the first 54 holes, his double-bogey 6 at the 10th on Saturday. His cards were clean.

With the result all but decided and as if to show off, each blitzed the back nine in 5-under 31.

Johnson has four wins by five shots or more since the start of the 2017 season, twice as many as the next best, Marc Leishman and Hideki Matsuyama. He’s the 38th player to reach 20 wins, his total pulling him even with Greg Norman, Hale Irwin, Johnny Revolta and Doug Sanders.

Asked if he’s thought about the World Golf Hall of Fame, Johnson, 34, shook his head.

“No, I haven’t,” he said. “I’ve still got a long way to go hopefully, and hopefully I’ve got a bunch more wins to put on my resume before I start thinking about that.”

If he keeps on like he did in Mexico, a bunch more wins, and the Hall, look written in the stars.

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