First and foremost, I have to reiterate that this past week was absolutely incredible that truly didn’t disappoint. I genuinely can’t remember the last time I was this pumped-up and inspired by a non-major tournament (and it felt really good). The Mexico Championship covered everything you could ask for out of a World Golf Championship, let alone tournament — it had an amazing, star-studded leaderboard, the most thrilling and exciting golf in recent memory (especially at a non-major stroke play event) and simply first-rate hospitality and pure class from all involved.
Major kudos to the PGA Tour championship committee, tournament organizers from America, Europe and Mexico, the generous sponsor — the Salinas family seemed like they genuinely didn’t want their name attached to the event because it wasn’t about them; rather it was about representing the country, its people and the desire to grow the game — the volunteers, the fans, the great venue, and everyone and anyone involved. Well played, Mexico — your country and citizens should be very proud.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s get to Dustin Johnson. if for whatever reason there were any questions that he’s the man to beat, he answered them with his play, particularly his much-improved wedge game in the past few years. There was something poetic about arguably the most powerful player in the game and longest hitter on Tour winning on a course that technically measured 7,301 yards on the scorecard, but because of the high altitude, played closer to 6,400 yards.
I trust there’s no need to remind you how ridiculously “short” that is for a PGA Tour event and the pros. I mean, that’s kind of short for single-digit handicappers. In college and at AJGA and USGA events, we played from that distance — yes, girls and women! The 2001 Women’s Amateur was most definitely right around 6,400 yards. And I know it’s been said, but just goes to show distance isn’t everything and doesn’t equate to a great course or exciting golf that set the stage for a dramatic and riveting event — which Club de golf Chapultepec certainly didn’t lack or fail to produce.
Johnson made the turn with a four-shot lead and just when it looked like he was going to run away from the field, he made a few mistakes early in the back nine. At the same time, Jon Rahm, the rookie from Spain, got hot and posted an eagle and two birdies to tie DJ atop the leaderboard. However, Rahm lost steam and faltered with bogeys on nos. 16 and 17 and had to settle with a tie for third finish.
“I didn’t play great every day and still had a chance to win the tournament,” Rahm said. “I’m not going to play great every day but that’s where you want to be, producing respectable scores without your A-Game. That’s going to keep you going for a long time and I was just glad I could do that.
“This was my first chance here on this golf course, the first time I played this kind of event and to actually have a chance? It’s really nothing but positive.”
But back to DJ. Remember it was less than a year ago that he was still in search of his first major victory after all those years of near misses? Holy hell, I certainly do, especially since the first occurred at the first major I covered at the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. Yep, front-row seat to the next six years of DJ’s almost victories, rules botches, 72nd hole disappointments at majors.
It was only fitting that he finally broke through last year at the U.S. Open at Oakmont, in spite of the USGA’s poorly managed and embarrassing handling of a rule violation and late penalty shots imposed on Johnson during the back nine at Oakmont in the final round, which triggered outrage and strongly-word reactions via social media from Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and basically every single Tour pro on Twitter.
Now, nine months later, Dustin is the man to beat at no. 1 in the world rankings, where he ascended the throne after winning at Riviera a few weeks ago. With his victory in Mexico, he’s won in back-to-back starts and cemented his place as the best golfer on the planet. You know what they say about those floodgates opening after getting that major monkey off their back… yeah, well, it’s no surprise that seems to hold water for DJ. He’s always been beyond talented, yet arguably lacked the discipline and work ethic of his contemporaries. That’s since appeared to have changed, though.
DJ’s win marked his fourth WGC title — and the only other player to have four or more wins at WGC events is none other than Tiger Woods, of course. It’s also worth pointing out that these victories have come at four different venues and in three different countries. Yes, this win was technically his second at this event. However, he won that title in 2015 when it was still held at Doral. He also claimed victories at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio last August and the 2014 WGC-HSBC Champions in China. In other words, DJ’s game travels well.
(Speaking of which, DJ was runner-up in January at the Abu Dhabi Championship. And strangely enough, he fell short of Tommy Fleetwood, who had a late run and incredible birdie on the 72nd hole to finish second to DJ this time around. )
“I like World Golf Championships,” said Johnson, simply, when his success at WGCs was pointed out. “Yeah, I mean obviously this is a great week. I felt like even the first round was, I struggled a little bit on the greens but I really hit the ball well and I didn’t feel like I was putting bad, but then obviously I played really well the last three rounds. I just hit it really good. I still missed a lot of putts, but I think everybody was struggling on the greens, they were really tricky, tough to read.
“But got off to a great start today on the front nine and then really didn’t feel like I hit any bad shots on the back and didn’t hit one bad shot on 12 and made bogey. Hit it right down the middle, hit a good wedge, landed it right next to the flag and three-putted. Felt like I hit all three of those putts good.
“And then on 13 I hit another good shot that ended up going in the bunker, which was a really tough upanddown, so I made those two bogeys. Those are really the only two mistakes I made all day. But coming down the stretch I made a great up-and-down on 15 out of the sand trap just short left and then a good two-putt on 16. And then probably the best shot I hit all week, especially under the circumstances, was that second shot on 18 was a fantastic shot, probably the best one I hit all week. “
Indeed, it was clutch.
This win marked the 32 year old’s 14th career victory on the PGA Tour:
2008 – Turning Stone Resort Championship
2009 – AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
2010 – AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, BMW Championship
2011 – The Barclays
2012 – FedEx St. Jude Classic
2013 – Tournament of Champions
2014 – World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions
2015 – World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship
2016 – U.S. Open, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, BMW Championship
2017 – Genesis Open
2017 – World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship
I have so much more to say, but it’s 3:30am and I need a few hours of sleep before I finish everything I want to write and post in the AM… so I can go explore and geek out at all the awesome museums Mexico City has to offer. Yes, that’s right — I am staying an extra couple of days so I can check out the sights and mostly go to museums. I am cool admitting that one of my favorite things to do in new cities (and many I’ve already visited, to be fair, like in London and Amsterdam, etc.) is exploring museums by myself. I have a knack for spending hours wandering on my own and getting lost in awe of whatever the museum has to offer….and from what I hear about the very long list of ones I want to see in Mexico City, I may need to extend my trip a few more days!