February 11, 2018

Genesis Open starts big year for Dustin Johnson

Power, talent and touch. No professional golfer possesses a better combination than Dustin Johnson.

Tall (6’4″), lean and athletic, he is a dominating force and is firmly entrenched as the No. 1 player in the world.

The 33-year-old Johnson got there last year by rolling to a five-stroke win at the Genesis Open at famed Riviera Country Club, becoming the 20th player to earn the distinction since the ranking began in 1986. He shows no signs of giving it up.

Dustin Johnson chips onto the 17th hole during the final round at the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club on February 19, 2017 in Pacific Palisades, California. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

Although Johnson was slowed by a back injury sustained in a fall at the Masters, he is back on form in 2018.

In January, Johnson fired a blistering 24-under-par score of 268 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii and won by eight shots. He walloped a jaw-dropping 433-yard drive on the par-4 12th hole at Kapalua and nearly made an ace, the ball stopping inches from the cup.

It was the 17th victory of his career and helped him join Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players in PGA TOUR history to capture at least one title in each of their first 11 seasons.

Earlier in his career, Johnson seemed content trying to tame courses with his length. After squandering a few leads, he realized he needed to add more to his arsenal to become a world- class player.

So Johnson dug in.

“That’s one of the reasons he works with Trackman a lot on his wedge game hitting balls to specific numbers because he hits more wedges into par-4s than any other player,” said Woods.“If he’s able to dial that in, he’s obviously going to have a tremendous advantage.”

Never was that more evident than last year’s Genesis Open. Rain-saturated Riviera played long for almost everyone except Johnson. He capitalized by knocking down the pins and led the field in birdies.

Dustin Johnson studies his putt on the 18th hole during the final round of the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club on February 19, 2017 in Pacific Palisades, California. (Photo by Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)

“They played 36 holes the last day and he really didn’t miss a drive,” said Woods, the tournament host. “When you’re hitting the ball 310 yards in cold weather – sometimes more – and most of the guys are depending on rollout and can’t fly the ball that far, it’s huge. They’re coming in with mid-to-long irons and he’s hitting 8-iron and down on almost every hole.”

While the majority of Johnson’s birdie opportunities came from close range, he was masterful on the testy greens. During one stretch, ‘DJ’ went 49 holes without a bogey.

“He put a new grip on his putter that week and made everything,” said Woods. “He just blew away the field.”

Johnson won the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont and seems primed for additional major success.

“Becoming No. 1 gave me a lot of confidence,” said Johnson. “It’s going to push me to work even harder to try and get even better.”