Rightful No1 Dustin Johnson looks man to beat at Masters

While it once looked as though he was always likely to self implode, especially in the big events, that's no longer the case with Dustin Johnson. Winning that first major, the US Open, last year was the defining moment in his career. Now the American is heading to Augusta National in a month's time as the man to beat in this year's Masters.

World No 1 Dustin Johnson celebrates winning the WGC Mexico Championship. Picture: AP Photo/Christian Palma

Johnson’s second victory of 2017 – a hard-earned one-shot success in the WGC-Mexico Championship – cemented his position as world No 1. Rory McIlroy had his eyes on that spot after holding the halfway lead at Club de Golf Chapultepec, but Johnson is the rightful holder for now.

“I feel like my game is very good right now,” he said after becoming the only player other than Tiger Woods to collect four WGCs, having kicked off by winning the HSBC Champions in 2013, adding the Cadillac Championship in 2015 then claiming the Bridgestone Invitational last year. All he needs now is the Dell Match Play to complete the set and that’s next up for the 32-year-old at the end of the month. “All parts of my game – driving, putting and chipping – are good.”

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It was his bunker play that saw Johnson prevail in the end on this occasion. Having seen a four-shot lead disappear, he got up and down for a much-needed birdie at the 15th. He then did well to find the heart of the green with his approach at the last with the ball below his feet and a line of trees between him and the flag. “That dink wedge with a 54 degree wedge from 
127 yards was probably the best shot I hit all week as it 
was a funky stance,” he admitted.

Before finishing sixth behind Jordan Spieth two years ago, Johnson had struggled to get to grips with Augusta National. But, having improved on that effort to claim fourth spot last year, that no longer looks to be the case. “A lot of guys are playing really well,” he said in the countdown to the season’s much-anticipated opening major. “Hideki Matsuyama is playing really well while Justin Thomas has won three times already this season, so I’ve still got a little catching up to do. But my game feels in very good shape. It’s been solid since the start of last year and not let up. I’ve got confidence in my game and I’m controlling the ball well.”

Joining Johnson in Georgia will be Tommy Fleetwood, who has secured his Masters debut after finishing second in Mexico, where another Englishman, Ross Fisher, and Spaniard Jon Rahm, who was making his WGC debut and led at one point in the final round, added to a strong European showing that also included Belgian Thomas Pieters ending up joint fifth and McIlroy claiming a share of seventh spot in his return from a rib injury.

“All in all, first week back, it’s okay,” said the world No 3. “But, being two ahead going into the weekend, I’m obviously disappointed with the finish I had.”

The same certainly applied to Russell Knox after the Scottish No 1 crashed to a closing 81 to end up 70th in the 77-strong field. The two-time PGA Tour winner saw the wheels come off as he carded a triple-bogey and three double-bogeys in six holes on his back nine.