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Dustin’ Em

The WGC-Mexico Championship at the Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City brought together the strongest field in golf so far in 2019. There are four World Golf Championships held every year and they are second only to the 4 Majors and the Players Championship in prestige and prize-money.

Two of the world’s best players, both of whom have been the #1 ranked player in the world for significant times in their careers, had separated themselves from the rest of the field after the third round. 

In second place at 12-under was Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy who has been rounding himself into form after a disappointing 2018 campaign in which his lone victory was at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Classic. A fourth place finish at last week’s Genesis Championship at Riviera came after a tie for 5th place at the Farmers Insurance Open. 

The Ulsterman has made a commitment to play more on the PGA Tour this year to assuage some of the effects of his world-wide traveling schedule which over the recent years, has been exhaustive. It is the right decision for the 4-time Major winner with the only drawback being that he may not play in enough European Tour events to qualify for automatic Ryder Cup selection (although that Rule was amended at the end of last year to require a player to only play in 4 events a year to remain eligible).

The leader of the WGC-Mexico though, was America’s best player, Dustin Johnson whose 5-under par 66 on Saturday gave him a commanding 4-shot cushion over McIlroy at 16-under for the tournament. A quartet of players were a further 3 shots back at 9-under: Americans, Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay , Australian Cameron Smith and Spain’s Sergio Garcia (who managed not to destroy any greens or bunkers this week).

For a brief time during Saturday’s back-9 the game’s iconic star, Tiger Woods made a mini-charge before being undone with a 4-putt and double bogey-7 on the par-5 15th hole. The resurgent 43-year old was on the periphery of contention at 6-under heading into Sunday’s finale but was too far behind the leaders to be a realistic threat.

The 34-year old Johnson has had a very ordinary start to begin the year with his only Top Ten finish a tie for 9th at the Genesis Open. But like McIlroy, he is a streaky player who when in form, fires like a super charged turbo engine which was at full throttle this week on a course that he clearly likes.

The only player to make a move towards Johnson on Sunday was McIlroy with four birdies in a five hole stretch as they began the back-9. The only problem for McIlroy was that Johnson matched this brilliant play with a sublime stretch of his own to still own a 5 shot advantage with 3 to play.

Ultimately Johnson closed with a 5-under 66 to finish at 21-under for the week and a 5 stoke win over McIlroy whose 67 left him at 16-under.   

Although the runner-up, McIlroy looks like he is starting to play close to his best golf, which is a scary thought for his fellow competitors. There is no other player in the world that can match McIlroy when he is at his best and he looks to be on the verge of exactly that.

This win is Johnson’s second at this event (he also won in 2017) and his 6th WGC win giving him the second most wins behind only Wood’s remarkable 18 triumphs. It is the South Carolinian’s 20th PGA Tour title and virtually assures him an induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame down the road. But awards like that can wait for several years as Johnson enters what should be the prime of an extraordinary career.