Life has come full circle for Dustin Johnson. Hailed as an incredible talent when he won on the PGA Tour in his very first season, the American faced ridicule when he took leave of absence from the Tour in 2014 to overcome some “personal challenges”.
But he came back in style, and Sunday’s win at the Genesis Open gave him something very few players can ever relate to – the right to be called No1 golfer in the world. That Johnson is a man of few words is well known.
He has still maintained a silence on what happened to him in 2014, something that many believe he needs to speak about so that there is no stigma attached to what is fast developing into one of the most successful careers in professional golf.
All kind of conjecture were made. Johnson was known to have drinking issues – he was even arrested for driving under the influence in 2009 – but there were whispers of drug abuse and sex scandals as well.
But DJ being DJ, he has mostly let his clubs do the talking. Ever since he won the US Open last year in Oakmont – a win that seems vital for him to shake the monkey off on his back of blowing it up when in contention in the majors – Johnson has been playing a different level of golf.
He has already won four times since June 2016, and despite the heroics of Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth this year, he has collected the most number of world ranking points.
He missed the cut at Torrey Pines during the Farmers Insurance Open, but he finished runnerup the week before in Abu Dhabi and then was third at Pebble Beach before winning the Genesis Open.
That has given him 120.80 points, with Thomas tallying 102.08 and Spieth 99.14. Johnson is known for making fast starts to his season and the Masters is still more than six weeks ago, but given the consistency he has shown lately, you would expect him to carry his form to Augusta National.
THE DISTANCE DEBATE
A report released last week by game’s governing bodies the R&A and the USGA is initiating a lot of heated discussion.
The research document examines driving distance data from seven of the major professional tours and concluded that between 2003 and the end of the 2016 season, the average driving distance on five of the seven tours increased by approximately 1.2 per cent, which is around 0.2 yards per year.
The distance travelled by the modern ball has been a massive talking point in golf. The general consensus seems to be that players are hitting the ball much further because of the technology used in both clubs, and the balls.
There is a fear that many of the classic golf courses have already been rendered obsolete, and that millions will have to be spent if the golf courses want to stay ahead of the distance game.
The governing bodies keep a very close eye on the technology being used by the original equipment manufacturers, and there are various limitation on what can be done with the clubs.
But they haven’t really done much about the balls, and are under lot of pressure to rein them in. However, this research shows the R&A and the USGA have been right all along. Just take the example of Dustin Johnson.
One of the longest hitters in the game, he averaged 309.7 yards in 2009, and that has increased to just 314.6 yards this year.
In 2003, Hank Keuhne was the longest driver on the PGA Tour at 321.4 yards, followed by John Daly at 314.3 yards.
In 2016, JB Holmes led the stat 314.4 yards, with Johnson second at 313.6. However, what has changed is the fact that in 2003, only nine players averaged more than 300 yards, but in 2016, 27 players were hitting past that mark.
So, it is quite clear that while the driving distances hasn’t increased significantly, the number of players who are hitting it long has. And one of the reasons many golf courses are yielding low scores is because the players are certainly hitting it a lot straighter.
The modern drivers are a lot more forgiving with mishits than the persimmon and wooden ones. Once you are on the fairway, making a birdie becomes a lot more easier compared to when you are in the thick stuff.
This week’s World Super 6 Perth on the European Tour is the first of three brand new formats being tried by professional golf tours to lure in the millennials and expand its fan base.
From April 27-30, the Zurich Classic in New Orleans on the PGA Tour will feature a team format, and this will be followed by the recently announced GolfSixes, also on the European Tour, which will be a two-day, two-man, nationbased team event on May 6-7.
Off the three, the GolfSixes is the most interesting one, because it is completely different. The World Super 6 is the usual strokeplay for the first three days, followed by a shootout between the top-24 players.
The Zurich Classic will be a 72-hole format with the teams playing Foursomes (alternate shot) during the first and third rounds and Four-Ball (best ball) during the second and fourth rounds. Both the tournaments will be four-day affairs, but not GolfSixes.
The 16 teams (of two players from each country) will be divided into four groups for round-robin matches on the opening day over six holes, followed by knock-out between the top two teams from each group the next day.
It will have shorter matches, will create more excitement because it will generate national fervour, and there are various add-on gimmicks planned like walk-in music, players with mics and enhanced interaction with the fans.
To get a player’s view, I asked Henrik Stenson what he thought of the new innovations, and he had a brilliant perspective on these innovations.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with the current format of strokeplay golf, which is a complete test of a player over 72 holes. But I am all for it if new formats bring new fans to the game. My only issue is that the tournament winner should be the one who has better overall skills. It should not come down to something silly like the championship getting decided by how far one can throw his golf shoes,” said Stenson.
There are a couple of issues with these tournaments that need to be ironed out. The first and foremost is how world ranking points will be allocated in such events.
That is very important because ranking points is the biggest attraction for most elite players. There cannot be any world ranking points for Zurich Classic, nor for the GolfSixes, as both are team events.
Then, there is also the question of how many points to be given to players playing shorter formats. While the World Super 6 looks like a well thought out format, just imagine a scenario where a player who is leading by half a dozen shots after three strokeplay rounds, is knocked out in his first shootout round.
Of course, it is foolish to expect a perfect product as soon as it is launched. These tournaments will have to go through a period of trial and tribulations.
In the meantime, lets just applaud the efforts being made by the Tours to take the Royal & Ancient game to a more modern fanbase.
COMPARISONS ARE GREAT
Really, players must get used to comparisons. Of course, they are odious. But they also provide great talking points for fans.
Anyone who has seen Tiger Woods dominate the golf world in the 2000s, wants to know if he was as good, or better, than Sam Snead in the 1940s.
When Jordan Spieth wins nine PGA Tour titles before turning 24, you’ve got to be curious as to who is above him and who is below him in that list.
And once you do that, it is natural to compare. So, here is the list of the three youngest players since World War II to win nine titles:
Tiger Woods – 23 years, 5 months, 7 days
Jordan Spieth – 23 years, 6 months, 16 days
Jack Nicklaus – 24 years, 19 days
When you are faced with such a stat, you have got to compare. In this case, because majors are considered the greatest yardstick of success by most players, Nicklaus claimed three majors in his first nine wins, Spieth two and Woods just one.
Dubai welcomes a new striking landmark this February with the opening of the widely anticipated Trump International Golf Club, Dubai – the city’s first new golf course in seven years and a premier lifestyle destination for the city.
Designed by renowned golf course architect, Gil Hanse, with its crumpled fairways, swathes of native grasses, generous open spaces and flowing teeing grounds, Trump International Golf Club, Dubai exhibits many of the same characteristics as an ancient Scottish links.
The Club is now accepting a limited number of founding memberships and on Wednesday opened bookings for February tee-times and it’s Golf Academy ahead of its February 19 opening.
Trump International Golf Club, Dubai is located within DAMAC Hills, on the doorstep of Arabian Ranches and Studio City.
Open 7am to 10pm contact Contact [email protected] for golf bookings or telephone 04 245 3939.