Dustin Johnson insisted being world No 1 was “a tough spot to be in” as he celebrated his first start on top of the world rankings with victory at the WGC-Mexico Championship.
Johnson overcame a back-nine wobble and the pressure from a host of impressive European challengers to card a final-round 68 which clinched a one-shot win, his fourth World Golf Championship title and the 16th professional victory of his career.
The US Open champion ended Jason Day’s 47-week tenure as world No 1 when he coasted to a dominant five-shot triumph in the weather-hit Genesis Open at Riviera a fortnight ago, and he held off Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm and Ross Fisher to make it back-to-back wins at Club de Golf Chapultepec.
“This means a lot because world No 1 is a tough spot to be in,” said Johnson. “There’s a lot of pressure on you but I came out and I played really well. I hit the ball great all week.
“The greens are tough to putt on and I didn’t feel like I putted my best, but I really hit the ball well and played just well enough I guess because I won by one.”
Johnson was also delighted with his approach to the last after his tee shot found an awkward lie on the edge of a fairway bunker, but he clipped a solid wedge to the heart of the green and safely two-putted to seal the title.
“Probably the best shot I hit all week, especially under the circumstances, was that second shot on 18,” he added. “It was a fantastic shot.”
Fleetwood had set the target at 13 under after holing a 40-foot putt for birdie on the final green to cap a 66 and although he came up one short, he had the consolation of collecting a cool $1,045,000 – the biggest payday of his career.
“It’s tough to beat the best player in the world, isn’t it?” said Fleetwood afterwards. “It was a great back nine. I think started pretty well after all a couple bad shots, so I felt comfortable on the back nine and made the most of those two par-fives and had a couple more birdies.
“I wasn’t overly worried about where the leaders were. Dustin and Jon kind of came backwards a little bit and, to be honest, I was kind of looking at trying to get third on my own at one stage, and then before you know it I saw the scores on the last green and I thought I might have a chance at winning it.
“But it was a really good putt on the last, it was a big one. It would have been nice to get in a play-off and see how we did, but overall it was a good day.”
Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy’s bid to regain the world No 1 ranking from Johnson floundered as he missed a number of good birdie opportunities in a closing 71, although he was encouraged by his performance in his first start since suffering a rib injury six weeks ago.
He said: “I needed to get off to a fast start and I didn’t. That was really it. You look at what DJ did through the first nine holes, I needed to get off to a start like that.
“The course got a little trickier over the weekend, so maybe I just didn’t quite adjust to that. But all in all, first week back, it’s okay. But being two ahead going into the weekend, I’m obviously disappointed with the finish I had.”