Questions have always dogged Dustin Johnson, off the course and on, and whether he was committed to untethering his talent from its anchor. Was he content with good when greatness was calling?
Another question has surfaced in the wake of the third victory in a breakout year for Johnson, his three-stroke win in the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind., on Sunday.
Is it now destiny that he ascends to No. 1 in the World Ranking and for an extended stay?
This was a topic on Golf Channel before he teed off in the final round of the BMW, when analyst Brandel Chamblee emphatically predicted it. “Not only do I think Dustin Johnson has the talent to be the next number one, but I think he has the talent to hold that position for triple-digit weeks.”
That would be close to a two-year run at minimum, and no doubt many would disagree with Chamblee. They often do. But his co-analyst David Duval, who has held the No. 1 ranking himself, said nothing to dispute the prediction.
“All the tools he has I believe are unmatched,” Duval said. “The ease to which Dustin Johnson makes it look, especially when he’s starting to wedge it in the last year like he has and his putting, is a great thing.”
Yes, power is now accompanied by finesse, a lethal combination in the hands of maybe the most athletic player in golf, who already was No. 2 in the World and is closing quickly on No. 1, Jason Day.
Already he has wrested the edge in the PGA Tour player of the year race from Day, who withdrew from the BMW with a spasm in his lower back.
They are tied for the tour lead in victories with three. But one of Johnson’s victories came in a major championship, the U.S. Open, and another in a World Golf Championship event, the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Day’s three victories do not include a major, though he won the WGC-Dell Match Play and the Players Championship. Johnson, meanwhile, also leads the tour in scoring average, top 10s, and earnings.
It has all come together for Johnson, demonstrated expertly at Crooked Stick. Beat this: first in the field in driving distance, first in putts per green, first in strokes gained off the tee, third in strokes gained tee to green, second in strokes gained putting.
It added to a 72-hole score of 23-under par that included a course-record 63 in the second round and a five-under par 67 in a final round that featured six birdies and an eagle.
The eagle, at the par-5 15th was the death blow. Moments earlier, runner-up Paul Casey, trailing by three, holed a 25-footer for eagle. Johnson topped it with an 18-footer for eagle to maintain the lead.
Johnson played the 16 par-5s over four days in 15-under par, a tribute to his driving prowess, the combination of long and straight in a game when they’re seldom compatible.
“This is what dominance looks like in the beginning,” Chamblee said in the immediate aftermath of Johnson’s victory. “You just don’t see this type of talent come along very often. It’s jaw-dropping to watch.”