Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Dustin Johnson

By Ryan LavnerDecember 13, 2016, 7:45 pm

(Editor's note: is counting down the top 10 newsmakers of 2016. Take a look at why each item made our list, along with a collection of their top stories from the year. Click here for the full list and release dates.)

The situation was ripe for Dustin Johnson to crumble, again. Leading by a shot in golf’s stiffest test, on America’s hardest track, Johnson was confronted by a USGA official on the 12th hole and told that he might be subject to a post-round penalty. Chaos ensued. The star-crossed talent seemed doomed for even more major heartache, after six years of poor decisions and untimely swings and bad breaks in critical moments.

“Just one more thing to add to the list, right?” he would say later.

But unlike during his previous major meltdowns, Johnson didn’t implode. Just the opposite, in fact. He shrugged off the distraction. He bashed his driver all over Oakmont. And he held steady while everyone faded around him Sunday at the U.S. Open, eventually winning by three shots.

After shedding the label of golf’s most talented tease, Johnson couldn’t hide his relief. “I feel a lot lighter,” he said.

And he played like it, too. Unburdened, he won his next start, at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and then top-10’d at The Open. He blew away another elite field at the BMW and had a chance to cap a career year with a FedEx Cup title, but he closed with 73 after taking a share of the 54-hole lead at the Tour Championship.

A few weeks later, to little surprise, he was named by his peers as the PGA Tour Player of the Year. It was the kind of macho performance so many had expected of Johnson ever since he splashed on Tour, in 2008. Though he has won every year in the pros, there always remained a sense that he had underachieved, that a player with such immense physical gifts should dominate the sport.

And so where Johnson goes from here will be fascinating to watch. His game has never looked better. Off the tee, he developed a go-to power fade that kept him in play. He bought a TrackMan and dialed in the distances with his wedges. And he had his best putting year.

But after finally bagging a big one, does Johnson now coast on his talent and win a few times each year – and probably a couple of majors – just because he’s that good? It’s possible, certainly.

The more likely scenario, however, is that he is just getting started.

Comfortable in his own skin, buoyed by the support of the Gretzky family and determined to reach world No. 1, Johnson is poised to go on a tear with his upgraded game and hard-earned self-belief.

June 19: This time, DJ overcomes penalty to win first major

June 19: Johnson discusses redemption, penalty in victory news conference

June 19, 20: Reaction to DJ's penalty

Video: Chamblee rips USGA

DJ: Don't think I did anything wrong

Players praise DJ, destroy USGA

Jack: USGA 'very unfair' to DJ

July 3: DJ wins back-to-back events, capturing WGC-Bridgestone

Sept. 11: Triple play: DJ gets third win of season at BMW Championship

DJ and Paulina light up social media

DJ dances with dog after Masters loss

Paulina, DJ pretty good at vacationing

DJ, Paulina make two videos

Photos: DJ, Paulina social snaps

Oct. 11: Johnson named PGA Tour Player of the Year

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What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.