Getty Images

DJ motivated to keep No. 1 ranking

By Rex HoggardFebruary 14, 2018, 10:03 pm

LOS ANGELES – On Tuesday, Dustin Johnson joined an exclusive club.

He didn’t add to his growing trophy collection. In fact, he actually dropped a surprising decision at Pebble Beach on Sunday after taking a share of the lead into the final round, but we’ll circle back around to that.

On Tuesday, DJ became just the fifth player to hold the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking for a full calendar year, joining the likes of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Greg Norman and Nick Faldo.

To keep things in context, the ranking has been around only since 1986, but it’s an impressive accomplishment nonetheless considering the parity in golf at the moment. Not that Johnson sounded as if he was spending much time relishing his tenure at the top.

“On Mondays usually," he said when asked how often he checked the ranking. "That's about it, though. Just to see what's going on. I still don't really understand them, but I could read ‘[No.] 1.’”

Like most things with DJ, compartmentalization is often confused for indifference.

Johnson pays more attention to the mathematical formula than he lets on, even if, like most of us, he doesn’t perfectly understand the countless computations.

“He likes it, being world No. 1, and he’s adamant about keeping it,” said Johnson’s swing coach, Butch Harmon.

In recent weeks Johnson’s status atop the world heap has been challenged by Jon Rahm, who could have ascended to the top spot at either the Farmers Insurance Open or last week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am depending on DJ’s finish despite the Spaniard not playing last week.


Genesis Open: Articles, photos and videos


Although he often comes across as aloof when he talks publicly about the ranking, there was an edge to Johnson's voice Wednesday as he prepared for this week’s Genesis Open.

It was Johnson’s five-stroke victory last year at Riviera Country Club that elevated him to the top of the mountain and started a torrid run that only an untimely spill on the eve of the Masters ended.

“It's nice. It's been a tough year,” Johnson said. “Obviously starting here I was playing really, really well, and then the injury at Augusta kind of derailed me a little bit.”

Johnson won his next two starts, both World Golf Championship events, after the Genesis Open, and arrived at the year’s first major the consensus favorite before falling in his rental house and injuring his back.

It took about a year for Johnson to feel fully healthy again and he opened this year with another commanding performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight strokes.

Although last week’s runner-up showing at Pebble Beach, where he closed with an even-par 72 to tie for second place, was surprising considering his status as a front-runner, it was also an interesting indication of the state of his game.

“Last week I didn't feel like I had my best stuff, but I still was there in contention with a chance to win on Sunday, which shows me that my game is definitely getting back to where it was,” Johnson said. “It feels better today than it did last week, so that's really good.”

Actually, Harmon said Johnson’s game was closer to 70 percent last week, particularly his driving which is always a gauge of how he’s playing.

But he’s close. Close to being back at his best and to the level where he was when he scorched the PGA Tour last spring.

“It’s pretty close, .5,” he said to compare where his game is now to 12 months ago. “I feel just as good as I did last year.”

Harmon took a slightly more detailed approach.

“It was a little better at this point last year. He’s been skiing and last week he was a little off and just needs to fine tune some things,” Harmon said. “But I can see him having the same momentum [as he did last year].”

And that might be the biggest difference between DJ 2017 and the current model. While all of the tumblers were falling perfectly into place at this point last year, this time around seems a little more calculated.

Even last week when he lost to Ted Potter Jr., who was plying his trade on the Web.com Tour 12 months ago, was an encouraging sign.

But most of all he’s motivated. He’s motivated to ride another wave of momentum down Magnolia Lane, motivated to stay healthy and, yes, absolutely motivated to maintain the top spot in the world ranking.

“It's definitely difficult to stay No. 1,” Johnson said. “The guys out here are very, very good and there's a lot of very talented players. But for me, I use it as motivation to keep working harder and to keep doing the things that I'm doing.”

Getty Images

Grace celebrates birthday with final-round 62

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 1:51 am

DALLAS – Branden Grace celebrated his 30th birthday in style, making the biggest charge of the final round at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Grace closed out a 9-under 62 as the sun began to set at Trinity Forest Golf Club, moving from outside the top 10 into a share of third place, four shots behind Aaron Wise. It equaled Grace’s career low on the PGA Tour, which he originally set last summer at The Open, and it was one shot off Marc Leishman’s course-record 61 from the opening round.

“Good birthday present. It was fun,” Grace said. “Little bit of imagination, little bit of luck here and there. You get more luck on the links golf course than maybe on a normal golf course.”


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


Weeks after Grace’s wife gave birth to the couple’s first child, he now has his best result on the PGA Tour since winning the RBC Heritage more than two years ago. As a world traveler and former Presidents Cup participant, the South African embraced an opportunity this week to go off the beaten path on an unconventional layout.

“It feels like a breath of fresh air coming to something different. Really is nice. I really enjoyed the golf course,” he said. “Obviously I think we got really lucky with the weather, and that’s why the scores are so low. It can bite you if it settles in a little bit in the next couple years.”

Getty Images

Scott barely misses qualifying for U.S. Open

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 1:33 am

DALLAS – A birdie on the 72nd hole gave Adam Scott a glimmer of hope, but in the end even a closing 65 at the AT&T Byron Nelson wasn’t enough to earn an exemption into next month’s U.S. Open.

Scott entered the week ranked No. 65 in the world, and the top 60 in next week’s rankings automatically qualify for Shinnecock Hills. The cutoff was a big reason why the 2008 tournament champ returned for Trinity Forest’s debut, and midway through the final round it seemed like the Aussie had a shot at snagging a bid at the 11th hour.

Scott needed at least a solo ninth-place finish to pass an idle Chesson Hadley at No. 60, and while his 5-footer on the 18th green gave him a share of sixth place when he completed play, he ultimately ended up in a three-way tie for ninth at 15 under – barely short of a spot in the top 60.


Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos


“I tried to make the most of really favorable conditions today, and I did a pretty good job of it. Just never really got a hot run going,” Scott said. “I feel like I struggled on the weekend reading the greens well enough to really get it going, but I think everyone but the leaders did that, too. They’re not the easiest greens to read.”

Scott has played each of the last three weeks in an effort to earn a U.S. Open exemption, and he’ll make it four in a row next week when he returns to the Fort Worth Invitational on a course where he won in 2013. Scott still has another chance to avoid sectional qualifying by earning a top-60 spot at the second and final cutoff on June 11 following the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

Scott has played 67 majors in a row, a streak that dates back to 2001 and is second only to Sergio Garcia among active players. While he’s prepared to play each of the next three weeks in a last-ditch effort to make the field, he’s taking his schedule one event at a time with the hope that one more good result might take care of business.

“I’ll play next week and hopefully play really well, and give myself a bit of cushion so I can take a week or so off and try to prepare the best I can for the U.S. Open,” Scott said.

Getty Images

Wise wins first Tour title at AT&T Byron Nelson

By Nick MentaMay 21, 2018, 1:22 am

On the strength of a final-round 65, 21-year-old Aaron Wise broke through for his first PGA Tour victory Sunday, taking the AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest. Here's how Wise beat the field and darkness following a lengthy rain delay:

Leaderboard: Wise (-23), Marc Leishman (-20), Branden Grace (-19), J.J. Spaun (-19), Keith Mitchell (-19)

What it means: This is Wise’s first PGA Tour win in just his 18th start as a member. Tied with Leishman to start the final round, Wise raced ahead with six birdies in a seven-hole stretch from Nos. 4-10 and never looked back. He'd make eight straight pars on his way into the clubhouse and the winner's circle. The 2016 NCAA Division I individual champion just locked up Tour status through the 2019-20 season and guaranteed himself a spot in the PGA Championship.

Best of the rest: Leishman reached 20 under par but just couldn’t keep pace with Wise. This is his second runner-up of the season, following a solo second in the CJ Cup in October.

Round of the day: Grace carded a 62 – where have I heard that before? – with eight birdies, an eagle and a bogey to end up tied for third, his best finish of the season on Tour.

Biggest disappointment: Adam Scott looked as though he had done enough to qualify for the U.S. Open via the Official World Golf Ranking when he walked off the golf course. Unfortunately, minutes later, he’d drop from a four-way tie for sixth into a three-way tie for ninth, narrowly missing out on this week's OWGR cutoff.

Break of the day: Wise could very well have found the hazard off the tee at No. 9 if not for a well-placed sprinkler head. Rather than drop a shot, he took advantage of his good fortune and poured in another birdie putt to extend his lead.

Quote of the day: "It's a dream come true to win this one." - Wise

Getty Images

Otaegui wins Belgian Knockout by two

By Associated PressMay 21, 2018, 1:20 am

ANTWERP, Belgium – Adrian Otaegui beat Benjamin Hebert by two shots in the final of the Belgian Knockout to win his second European Tour title.

The hybrid format opened with two rounds of stroke play on Thursday and Friday, before the leading 64 players competed in nine-hole knockout stroke play matches.

Otaegui and Hebert both finished three shots off the lead at 5 under after the first two days and worked their way through five matches on the weekend to set up Sunday's final at the Rinkven International Golf Club.


Full-field scores from the Belgian Knockout


''I'm very happy, very relaxed now after the last nine holes against Ben that were very tight,'' Otaegui said. ''I'm just very proud about my week.

''I just tried to play against myself. Obviously your opponent is just next to you but I just tried to focus on my game.''

Scotland's David Drysdale beat James Heath of England by one shot in the playoff for third spot.

Herbet said he was ''just a little short this week.''

''Adrian is a very good player, especially in this kind of format,'' he said. ''He's already won one tournament in match play last year. This format is fun, it puts you under pressure almost every hole because everything can happen. I think it's a great idea.''