As DJ arrives at 35, assessing his spot in history
Dustin Johnson, living visage of power golf over the last decade-plus, turned 35 last week.
With twenty PGA Tour victories, Johnson is already a virtual lock for the World Golf Hall of Fame. There are 35 other Hall-eligible players with twenty or more PGA Tour titles to their credit: thirty of them have been inducted.
The script of Johnson’s professional career is far from finished. Nobody could suggest that the second-ranked player in the world, with two runner-up finishes in major championships this year, would be hanging it up anytime soon. But despite his litany of achievements on the course, history might currently remember DJ best for his barrage of close calls in the game’s biggest events.
At the PGA Championship this year, Johnson became the eighth player in the modern era to finish runner-up in all four major championships. Over the last ten seasons, only Phil Mickelson (five) has more second place finishes in the majors.
Since 2010, Johnson is a combined 16-under-par in rounds one and two of majors – seven shots better than anyone else.
Over the last thirty years, there are ten players to hold the lead or co-lead following a major championship round ten or more times. Of that group, Johnson is the only one to not win more than one major.
His hourglass has plenty of sand left in it, but history tells us more pages in this book have been written than we think.
Since the first Masters was held in 1934, only 16 players have won multiple major championships after turning 35 years old. And the list of players to win their final major before turning 35 can be staggering too: Seve Ballesteros (age 31), Tom Watson (33) and Arnold Palmer (34) are among the greatest players in the history of the game, but none of them won a major championship after their 35th birthdays.
Let’s not bury peak-DJ yet, though. Johnson ranks in the top-three on the PGA Tour this season in strokes gained total, off-the-tee and tee-to-green. He’s third in scoring and hasn’t finished a season with an average in the 70’s since 2013. He’s missed a grand total of one cut in his last 46 starts around the world and is yet to play an entire PGA Tour season without at least one victory.
Johnson is currently number one in the 15th Club Performance Index.
WOODLAND RETURNS TO ACTION
Gary Woodland makes his first career start as a major champion this week in Michigan.
Each of the previous four U.S. Open champions finished in the top-20 in their first start following the victory. Two of them won: Jordan Spieth at the 2015 John Deere Classic, and DJ in 2016 in Akron.
His win at Pebble Beach obviously cemented 2019 as his best season to date, but other numbers also point to this being the best golf Woodland has played in his career. Gary has missed just one cut so far this season; he’s never had a PGA Tour campaign without multiple MC’s. His eight top-ten finishes this season are already a career-high. He leads the PGA Tour in birdie average, a statistic he has never finished a season in the top-ten in.
With the major title out of the way, why not another career first? Woodland has never had a multi-win season on Tour, something he still has time to accomplish this season.
KOEPKA AND ANOTHER MAJOR FEAT
At Pebble, Brooks Koepka became the first player since Tiger Woods in 2005 to finish either first or second in each of a season’s first three majors. But at Royal Portrush, he has the chance to hold one pedestal all to himself.
No player in the modern era has finished either first or second in all four major championships that season. Brooks can become the first to do it at next month’s Open.
Six other times since 1960, a player has done what Brooks has through three majors in a season, including Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus doing so two times each in that span. And it’s worth noting that Ben Hogan won all three majors he played in 1953 – the schedule that season made it an impossibility for Hogan to play the PGA Championship that year.
Still, Koepka could hold another major championship distinction all to himself come July.