Dustin Johnson plays like No. 1-ranked player, shoots 66 and is tied for Players Championship lead
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The World Golf Ranking is a nice conversation piece between Sundays, though Dustin Johnson seemingly would rather others discuss it among themselves. He’s content to let his golf speak on his behalf.
It made an affirmative statement in the first round of the Players Championship, when Johnson shot a bogey-free six-under par 66, his best score ever on the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Johnson is tied for the lead with Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar, Chesson Hadley, Patrick Cantlay and Alex Noren. Defending champion Si Woo Kim, Sergio Garcia and 51-year-old Steve Stricker are among those one stroke back.
Johnson has been ranked No. 1 for 64 straight weeks, but there are four players — Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose — who conceivably could overtake him this week, and though he was asked about it on Thursday, he seemed indifferent.
“Every week Justin’s pretty close,” he said of Thomas. “So every week I know there’s a chance that someone can pass me. I definitely want to stay there, but if someone passes me it’s not going to change anything. Obviously this week if I play really well I’ll still be number one. If I don't, someone’s going to pass me, which is okay.”
Johnson outplayed all his contenders. Thomas opened with a one-over 73, Spieth a three-over 75 and Rose and Rahm four-under 68s.
“I felt like it was a really solid day,” Johnson said. “I drove it really well, hit a lot of greens. I wasn't too sharp with the irons, but I still was on the green and rolled the putter very well.”
Garcia, who won the event a decade ago, was in the lead until hitting his tee shot in the water at the nefarious par-3 17th with its island green. He made double-bogey there and a bogey at 18 to fall two back.
The marquee threesome of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, meanwhile, underwhelmed. Woods hit his tee shot at 18 into the water, leading to a bogey and shot an even-par 72 . Mickelson played a four-hole stretch on the back nine in seven-over par and posted a seven-over 79. And Fowler hit his tee shot at 17 into the water, made double-bogey and shot a two-over par 74.