There’s a saying across sports that when a particularly fast athlete is even with an opponent, he’s really by them. You can’t compete with that kind of speed. That’s Dustin Johnson right now.
After consecutive 66’s on the weekend, Johnson is walking away with his second straight victory. The last one was the US Open. This one was a World Golf Championship. And if the comeback at Oakmont was impressive, he may have outdid himself in Akron.
World No. 1 Jason Day held a two-shot lead late on Sunday before DJ chased him down to with the Bridgestone Invitational. It was more of the same from Johnson: drive for dough, putt to give you no chance.
At this point, he may just be the best driver of the golf ball we’ve ever seen. Jack Nicklaus hinted at it when discussing Johnson’s win two weeks ago, and if Nicklaus says it, people listen. Johnson finished at or near the top of the board in strokes-gained tee-to-green and strokes-gained off the tee.
On 16, the impossibly long par-5, he pounded a ball 380+ yards into the fairway. Somehow, that still left him with a layup and par. No bother. He sank a long birdie putt on the 17 to overtake Day, who had bogeyed the 15.
Whether the latter noticed the roars from DJ’s group or not, he faltered. A lot of things have been going right for Ohioans lately. See the Cavs and Indians. But Columbus resident Day hooked a three-wood about as badly as you can when it came his time to battle 16. His ball settled under a tree, which led to an ill-advised punch-out, which led to poor layup, which led to the hazard, which ended in a double-bogey 7. Day was done, and Johnson put it in cruise control.
Of course, his whole life is seemingly in cruise control. Before his attitude could be described as aloof if not disinterested. Now, he carries the coolness of cowboy entering a gun fight. He knows who’s walking away.
A special distinction should also be handed out to Scott Piercy. He finished tied for second to Johnson at the US Open and matched that place on Sunday. For a man who’s been a professional since 2001, the 37-year-old Piercy is suddenly in the best form of his career. In 17 starts this season, he’s posted nine top-25’s. Not bad for a journeyman, and it may yet land him on the US Ryder Cup Team.
Oh, it’s the Fourth of July and you thought we wouldn’t bring up the Americans’ plight in golf? Well, remember that in 2014 Johnson removed himself from the competition due to his personal issues. He likely would not have changed the outcome of an event that was derailed by the leadership of Tom Watson, but we would have put at least a scare into the Europeans.
He may be the United States’ best threat when we get to Hazeltine this fall. After all, it’s a course miles long with US Open style rough and greens. In other words, it’s built for Johnson. Then again, all places are these days.
In some ways, we saw this coming for Johnson, who for years had other pros gushing about his natural talent. Now he has the mental game and fortitude to turn that talent into wins. Who knows how long his stay at the top will last? Rory McIlroy had his claim run out soon after the 2014 Tour Championship. Jordan Spieth has been merely great this year as opposed to other-worldly. And Day, who took over Spieth as the world’s top player, got caught and passed this weekend. Johnson belongs in that group more than others, which isn’t a shot at the likes of Rickie Fowler. It’s just that Johnson is so far ahead of everyone else this past month. Who knows what the British Open holds in store in two weeks? But bet that if Johnson is in contention, he’s really in the lead.