Golf: Johnson's own Genesis brings him No.1 spot

Dustin Johnson celebrating his Genesis Open win with fiancee Paulina Gretzky and son Tatum on the 18th green at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California. He has taken the No. 1 spot from Australian Jason Day, who had held it for 47 weeks
Dustin Johnson celebrating his Genesis Open win with fiancee Paulina Gretzky and son Tatum on the 18th green at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California. He has taken the No. 1 spot from Australian Jason Day, who had held it for 47 weeks.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Five-shot Genesis Open win gives American the chance to rise above early-career troubles

LOS ANGELES • Nineteen golfers, including the Genesis Open's non-playing host, Tiger Woods, have ascended to the men's world No. 1 spot since the rankings were introduced in 1986.

Starting from this week, Dustin Johnson is officially the 20th.

Johnson, the reigning US Open champion and PGA Tour Player of the Year, closed with rounds of 64 and 71 at a soggy Riviera Country Club on Sunday for a five-shot win.

The victory vaulted him past Jason Day, the No. 1 player for the past 47 weeks and for 51 weeks overall, and the former No. 1 Rory McIlroy in the new rankings.

"I didn't finish the last 10 holes the way I would like to," Johnson said in a greenside television interview, "but I had a pretty big lead there with 10 holes to go, so I was kind of on cruise control."

  • Long hard road to the top

  • OFF THE COURSE

    • Dustin Johnson was reported to have taken a "leave of absence" to solve his "personal problems" in 2014 but it was believed that he was suspended from the PGA Tour for six months after testing positive for cocaine, according to golf.com.

    • He was also alleged to have failed three drug tests - the other two were for marijuana in 2009 and cocaine in 2012.

    • Also in 2014, Fox Sports reported that the American had affairs with two wives of PGA Tour players - one of whom divorced after the scandal.

    ON THE COURSE

    • Johnson blew a three-stroke lead at the 2010 US Open, finishing eighth after an 11-over 82.

    • He held a one-shot lead on the 72nd hole at the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits but took a two-shot penalty for grounding his club in a bunker, eventually costing him the title.

    • The 32-year-old was one shot behind eventual winner Jordan Spieth at the 2015 US Open and had a chance of an eagle putt on the final hole to win it. Instead, he three-putted from 12 feet.

    • Johnson, however, finally won his first Major at the 2016 US Open by three strokes.

The 32-year-old American has won at least one tournament in every calendar year since he joined the PGA Tour in 2008.

Seven of his tour wins, including his first Major title, have come since his engagement to Paulina Gretzky, with whom he has a two-year-old son and another child on the way.

The criticism of Johnson early in his career was that he spent too much time socialising and not enough time fine-tuning his play on the course, especially his short game.

But after he started dating Gretzky, Johnson came under the influence of her father, Wayne, the National Hockey League's career scoring leader, who impressed upon him that he has been given a gift and that he ought not to waste it.

"He's the greatest of all time, and no one's ever going to pass his records or pass him as a hockey player - I don't see that happening," Johnson said.

"So when he thinks very highly of you, it definitely gives you a lot of confidence and gives you more belief."

Thomas Pieters of Belgium closed with a 63, equalling the low round of the week, to finish tied for second at 12-under 272 with Scott Brown (67).

Wesley Bryan, who is from the same South Carolina high school - Dutch Fork - as Johnson, moved into contention with a third-round 63 but struggled home in 72 to finish in a four-way tie for fourth at 273.

"Honestly, I'm surprised it took so long for him to get to No. 1 in the world," Bryan said, referring to Johnson, whom he has known since childhood. "He's got all the talent that you could ever want."

In nine previous starts at Riviera, Johnson had six top-10 finishes, including runner-up showings in 2014 and 2015.

Day, who shot rounds of 75 and 71 to finish tied for 64th at two-over, looked at the group of reporters waiting to talk to him after he signed his scorecard and said: "Let me guess... It's because I lost the No. 1 ranking."

The Australian quickly corrected himself. He had not lost the ranking; Johnson had taken it from him by playing great golf.

Johnson added that he had never lost faith and can now safely say that he is the best in the world.

"I believe in myself, I think I'm a great player," he said. "The best in the world - until now I probably wouldn't have said I was the best in the world, but now I can say it."

He admitted the top spot was not something he dreamt of as a young golfer.

But now that he is there, he said: "It's going to just push me to keep working harder and stay there."

NYTIMES, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 21, 2017, with the headline 'Johnson No. 1 after Riviera title'. Print Edition | Subscribe