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What could have been and what could still be of Dustin Johnson's quest for greatness



MEXICO CITY – When Dustin Johnson dominates as he did again winning the WGC-Mexico Championship for the second time on Sunday, it often makes you wonder why he doesn't bring home more of the tournament hardware.

The game can appear so easy for him, and playing in the thin air of Mexico City and bombing drives into the sky almost seems unfair. The raw power, the athleticism, the much improved wedge game … all of it has put Johnson, 34, near the top of the world rankings for the better part of two years and within percentage points of being No. [Again]

So for the second consecutive day, Tiger Woods was understandably and visibly irritated with himself after struggling on the greens and squandering a chance at a low score. And for the second day in a row, Woods declined to talk about it

  • Dustin Johnson started out the final round of the WGC-Mexico Championship slowly but finished strong Sunday, winning his 20th career title and earning himself a lifetime membership on the PGA Tour at age 34.

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    While it seems as if Johnson could be more than just picked up win no. 20 on the PGA Tour is a remarkable achievement during a time of immense depth and parity. Johnson has traded spots at the world rankings with three players over the past year, but nobody has accomplished what he just did, going back 11 years.

    The last time a player achieved victory No. 20 in his PGA career was when Davis Love III won the now-defunct Walt Disney World Classic at age 44 in 2008. It has become a rare feat.

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    0:45

    Bob Harig breaks down Dustin Johnson's 20th career PGA Tour win at the WGC-Mexico Championship

    Prior to that, it was Vijay Singh in 2004 (at age 41), Phil Mickelson in 2002 (at age 31) and Tiger Woods in 2000 (at age 24)

    Mickelson and Woods, of course, are iconic players who reached those numbers quickly and kept going. Johnson is just the 38th player to get to the milestone, putting him in some elite company, meaning he will have lifetime PGA Tour membership status after his 15th year.

    "Yeah, 20 is nice, I definitely wanted to get to that 20 number, '' Johnson said. 'I would have liked to have done it a little bit quicker, but I'm pleased with where I'm at. And to get 20 wins obviously is a lifetime exemption on the tour, so that's a very big achievement and I'm very proud of myself for doing it. ''

    In addition to Love, Lanny Wadkins won 21 times, with Greg Norman and Hale Irwin each winning 20.

    Among a slew Hall of Famers who did not reach 20 are Ernie Els, Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite (19), Nick Price (18) and Curtis Strange (17).

    Johnson is not one of the most up-to-date golf history, which might have something to do with the victory total, as well as this kind of snap on the golf world at large. But it is impressive nonetheless.

    And he has gotten there with a flurry of victories in recent years espousing a simple mandate.

    "My goal is to try and win every tournament I play, but I want to be in contention , '' he said. "" I want to give myself a chance to go back every time on Sunday. ''

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    2:06

    Tiger Woods finishes tied for 10th and Justin Thomas' final- round 62 moves him to ninth, but Dustin Johnson wins at the WGC-Mexico Championship.

    While that is a lofty goal, it's not really achievable. Still, Johnson hasn't been off. Starting three years ago, he has won a minimum of three tournaments worldwide each year, with the WGC-Mexico title his second of this season after winning the Saudi International on the European Tour three weeks ago.

    Also during that period, Johnson has racked up 30 top-10 finishes outside of his victories, while missing just five cuts.

    Since returning from a six-month leave of absence in 2015 to deal with personal issues, while also learning how to dial in his wedge shots , Johnson has been among the most feared players in the game.

    His ability to drive it so far is typically fearless using a driver off the tee – which means many short-iron approaches to greens, which is why Getting his wedge game figured out has paid huge dividends. He is also a short-game player. And when his putting is on, Johnson is going to beat.

    He was in the top 10 a stroke gained off the tee, stroke gained tee to green and in driving distance along with strokes gained approach to the green. Strokes gained putting? Second.

    Of course, what would truly make Johnson's career record that much more impressive is more major championships. When he won the U.S. Open at Oakmont in 2016 – a year after spectacularly blowing the championship to Jordan Spieth – it seemed a huge breakthrough, with more to come. He showed some enormous resilience as part of that victory, not just rebounding from a year earlier but also overcoming a controversial final round ruling. Open last year, shooting a third round 77 before finishing third.

    And there are those near misses that could have greatly altered his essay: the 2010 U.S. Open, when he coughed up a third-round lead; the 2010 PGA Championship, when he took a two-shot penalty on the final hole for grounding his club in a hazard, missing out on a sudden-death playoff; and the 2011 Open, when Darren Clarke prevailed as Johnson pumped a tee shot out of bounds on the back nine.

    Imagine what the record could be

    Johnson handled all those defeats and he knows the opportunities that await. We always wondered what had been he had not slipped on the stairs at his Augusta rental house two years ago that day before the Masters when he was the hottest player in the world. Perhaps this is the year.

    That's why after a four-week stretch that took him to Saudi Arabia, Pebble Beach, Riviera and Mexico, he is not too keen on sitting and enjoying what he has just accomplished.

    "There's just too many tournaments coming up," said Johnson, who will compete next to the Players Championship. "I want to keep my game as sharp as I can. There's definitely some things I can do when I go home. I'll be right back to work, because this year, this time of year's just too important. I don't really have time to take any time off. ''


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