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Monday, February 25, 2019

Dustin Johnson Cruises in Mexico and Joins History

Dustin Johnson made it look easy over the weekend at the 2019 WGC-Mexico Championship to win his 20th career and 6th WGC victory. All before the age of 35, Johnson has quietly become one of, if not the best player of his generation.

A reserved man with a career that has been at times a bit controversial, Johnson has the ability to dominate a field with his power combined with a putting game that should be talked about more. Johnson doesn't get the respect he deserves for the completeness of his game. His reputation is about power but digging into the stats, we can see it's much more than that.

Stats courtesy of the PGA Tour:
  • Playing at altitude in Mexico City, the yardage was certainly there for Johnson off of the tee as he averaged 343.5 yards driving. But that average was just 13 yards beyond the field average. Bottom line, DJ was hitting it big but not massively longer than his competitors. 
  • His driving wasn't particularly accurate this week either. His driving accuracy of 57.14% fell below a field that averaged 60.71%. So he was hitting it a bit longer but also a bit more offline than the others.
  • Johnson was also below the field average in Greens in Regulation hitting 77.78% while the field posted 80.56% which makes sense when combined with a slightly errant driving game.
  • Johnson won thanks in great part to his putter. The telling statistic from Mexico this week was Dustin Johnson was 2.939 Strokes Gained-Putting against a field average of 2.116. 
So, what does winning 20 times on tour before the age of 35 mean for Dustin Johnson? Not much in the practical sense but it does put him into a group of some impressive players. Only 8 other players were able to secure their 20th victory on tour before the age of 35:
  • Tiger Woods
  • Jack Nicklaus
  • Tom Watson
  • Arnold Palmer
  • Phil Mickelson
  • Billy Casper
  • Johnny Miller
  • Gene Littler
That's a rather impressive club wouldn't you say?

His 20th win has also caused the folks who talk about these things to say that Johnson will almost certainly become a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Another nice conversation to overhear about yourself.

Also, with both himself and Justin Rose taking next week off, the computer algorithms that determine the Official World Golf Rankings will show after next week's events have been played that Johnson has once again regained his position as World #1. Again, nice.

From a practical point of view, 20 wins on tour comes with a lifetime tour exemption. There's, unfortunately, a strange additional requirement to receive this particular benefit. You also have to achieve 15 active seasons as a PGA Tour member. Johnson is currently only playing his 12th season. So, assuming he stays healthy and continues to want to play, he has that to look forward to. Which is nice.

Dustin Johnson. Quietly becoming one of the best players of a generation that we should be hearing much more from for years to come. I'm looking forward to it.

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