WHY DUSTIN JOHNSON IS SUCH A
BIG DEAL IN GOLF
So Dustin Johnsons dominant victory at the Genesis Open by 5 shots sees him newly installed as the No1 golfer in the world , the 21st player to be officially No1 , but before we look at DJ a little closer and what this might mean for his career let’s look back at the history of the No1 ranked player in world golf .
So would anybody like to have a guess at who was the first No1 ranked golfer in the world ?
Well I’ll give you a little clue , the official rankings didn’t start till 1986 and previous to this the unofficial world No1 was published in Mark McCormacks (IMG) World of Professional Golf Annual from 1968 till 1985 , Jack Nicklaus , Tom Watson and Seve Ballesteros been the top ranked players in that order .
So who was the first number one ? Well he won the Masters the previous year (he would win it again in 93) and won the European order of merit twice and would go on to be a serial winner on the seniors tour in America . Got it yet ? Well done if you said Bernhard Langer who held the position for a lofty 3 weeks and would never regain it ( beaten only by Tom Lehman who topped the rankings for one whole week ) Seve Ballesteros would wrestle the No1 ranking from Langer and he and Greg Norman would alternate the number one spot all through the 80s till Nick Faldo got involved in 1990 when he held it briefly for the first time and then Ian Woosnam got in on the act and held it for 50 weeks until March of 92 . Have you noticed something yet ? We’ve had 6 years of ranking No1s and not an American player has yet featured ? We’ve had a German , a Spaniard , an Aussie and an Englishman and a Welshman . Like to hazard a guess who the first official American World No1 was ? I’ll give you a big clue he won this year’s (92) Masters Championship and was World No1 for one week only ?? Give up ?? It was of course Freddie Couples who to be fair would go on to regain the World No1 spot for another 15 weeks .
Nick Faldo and Greg Norman would share the No1 spot for the next few years before a certain Nick Price off the back of two major wins in one season (The Open and the PGA Championship ) would lay claim to it and hold it for 44 weeks between 94 and 95 before Norman once again reclaimed it .
It’s interesting to note here just what a dominant force Norman was in world golf at this time . He won the Open Championship twice in 86 and 93 , was second at the Masters , the US Open and the PGA championship twice in this time period as well as winning the PGA money list on three occasions 86,90 and 95 . He was the number 1 ranked golfer for a total of 331 weeks but all most golf fans remember him for is his collapse at the 96 Masters where Faldo overturned a six shot lead on the final day to win .
It’s about now that a certain Mr Eldrick Woods makes an appearance . Tiger makes his first appearance at World No1 in the June of 97 off the back of his stunning Masters victory , but only holding it for one week . Don’t worry he would soon put that right , holding onto the No1 ranking from August 99 to September 04 and then again from June 05 to October 10 for a total of 264 weeks . He would again reclaim the No1 ranking in 13 holding onto it till 14 when after back surgery he would actually slip outside of the top 500 world rankings !! Woods fall from grace is well documented and we won’t dwell on it here rather we’ll look at how he completely dominated world golf in this period . The stats alone just don’t do him justice . From joining the professional tour in 96 he has amassed 79 wins on tour . He totally dominated in the Majors at this time , winning The Masters four times 97,01,02,05 , the US Open three times 00,02,08 , the Open Championship three times 00,05,06 and the PGA Championship four times 99,00,06,07 . Basically if Woods turned up and was healthy and in form then everybody else was playing for second . This led to courses “Tiger Proofing” themselves by adding more length to make the courses harder and lessen Woods length advantage . Whether this was good for golf or not is debatable , as golf now seems to be all about who can hit it the furthest off the tee not hit the best golf shots . A case in point is Nick Faldo . The six times major winner famously rebuilt his swing in the 80s with the help of David Leadbetter and brought the concept of a full time swing coach to the professional game . As defending Masters champion in 97 heand Tiger the previous years US Amateur champion were paired together in the first round . Tiger was some 40 to 50 yards longer than Faldo off the tee and although not known as a big hitter , he was more about control , Faldo wasn’t exactly short off the tee .
Tiger was sometimes a little erratic off the tee , not always hitting the fairways but it’s definitely easier hitting a short iron into the Masters notoriously difficult greens from the semi rough than hitting an 4 iron from 200 yards back , and as we know Tiger went on to destroy the course and the field ushering in the Tiger era . Faldo went away as many Pro’s from this period did to find another 40 or 50 yards but just didn’t have the athletic explosiveness of Tiger to hit the ball that far , although as we know now it has probably done irreparable damage to Tigers back .
Throughout the Tiger period a few players jostled with him for the No1 spot , Ernie Els and David Duvall been the two that put up the most resistance . Els is known for his rhythmic swing and his easy persona , gaining him the nickname “The Big Easy” . A two time Open and US open champion he was always a fixture and a threat going into the final day of a major . Duvall is an interesting character . A serial winner on the US tour he could match Tiger for distance and with his seemingly ice cold persona behind his sunglasses he always played in , could this be the man to tame the Tiger ? Unfortunately history tells us no , he had some health problems and family issues and unfortunately just disappeared off the golf radar . He will however always be remembered for his humble and gracious winners speech at St Andrews as he proudly held the auld claret jug .
So this almost brings us almost up to date on our little journey through the Worlds No1 golfer apart from a little period were European golfers dominated again for a little time . Lee Westwood was the first European to get his hands on the title after Tiger , and him and Martin Kaymer had a little period were it ping ponged between them . Luke Donald then made an appearance at No1 , before the man who was possibly the next Tiger made an appearance . Rory McIlroy seems to have it all , prodigious length off the tee , razor sharp short game and laser like putting . However a final round collapse at the 2011 Masters which saw him throw away a 4 stroke lead and shoot a final round 80 seemed to show some mental fragility . However he recovered at the next major the US Open winning with a tournament record 16 under par . He’s followed this up by winning the PGA Championship twice , and the Open Championship . He’s one of only three players to win three major championships by the age of 25 I’ll let you workout who the other two are . He’s the youngest player ever to reach 10 million in career earnings on both tours . However he hasn’t won a major now since 2014 and doesn’t seem as though he is going to dominate like many thought he would . Like Tiger he has also had some issues away from the golf course , he famously dumped his tennis professional girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki after they had sent there wedding invites out . Whether it’s off course problems or just the fact that the standard now is so high that has stopped Rory dominating is yet to be seen . We briefly mentioned Luke Donald and here is another interesting little study to look at . He first made an appearance at No1 in 2011 and him and Rory alternated it between them swapping and changing as each won a tournament . Donald is known for his iron play and short game and it would seem that he also felt the need to find extra distance and went through several coaches in his quest . However unfortunately as we have already seen history has repeated itself and it has had an negative effect on his game and he has steadily slipped down the rankings .
Which brings us back to where we began with DJ . Do we think as the newly installed world No1 his career will kick on and he’ll dominate Tiger like ? Probably not is the answer . He’s won a tournament every year he’s been on tour , and won one Major already , the 2016 US open and he’ll probably win at least one of the others , but he won’t dominate the standard now is too high . He too has had problems away from the golf course , whispers of a drug habit and too much partying taking there toll on his game although he’s seems settled now with his girlfriend Paulina Gretsky and they have a child together . With players of the calibre of Rory and Jason Day and Jordan Speith who we haven’t even touched on , the battle to be the No1 player in world golf is only going to get more competitive and for us golf fans that can surely only be a good thing .