A win in the 2020 PGA Championship would solidify Dustin Johnson’s place in history
Everything about Dustin Johnson seems to sneak up on you – including his legacy. That casual, lumbering stride down the fairway almost makes it seem as if he’s stalking his golf ball. Now, he has crept up on history and a victory Sunday at the PGA Championship would dramatically change his standing in the game.
Since turning pro late in 2007, the 6-foot-4 power hitter has toiled in the enormous shadows of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as well as in the significant shade cast by Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. For the first eight years of his career, DJ was viewed as an enormous talent who never really dominated.
But if he leaves TPC Harding Park Sunday night with the Wanamaker Trophy it will be his second major championship and 22nd win on the PGA Tour. Those are World Golf Hall of Fame credentials in anyone’s book. And at still only 36, he has plenty of years ahead of him in which to fatten his resume.
“Yeah, I'm going to try my best not to do that,” he said Saturday when asked if he was thinking about what is at stake in this final round. “All I can do is go out and play my game and shoot the best number I can. It doesn't really matter what other guys are doing. All I can control is myself.”
From his first Tour win on Oct. 5, 2008, through No. 21 this June at the Travelers Championship, Johnson has won at least once in each of his first 13 years as a pro. The only other guys who can say that are Woods and Jack Nicklaus.
But in seven of his first eight season, he won only once – and the time he didn’t he won twice and had yet to claim a major. His fans wanted more from him. He wanted more from him.
Then in July, 2014, Johnson said he was taking the rest of the year off to deal with some personal issues. When he returned it was with a whole new sense of purpose – and with a vastly improved short game he had worked on diligently during his break.
Johnson won three times in 2016, including the U.S. Open at Oakmont. There were four more victories in 2017 and another three in 2018. He reached No. 1 in the world ranking in February 2017 and held it for 64 weeks. Last year, he was second in the PGA Championship at Bethpage to Koepka.
Johnson goes into Sunday’s final round at Harding Park one stroke ahead of Scottie Scheffler and Cameron Champ, and two clear of Paul Casey, Collin Morikawa and Koepka, who is trying for his third consecutive PGA Championship. DJ has finishes second in each of the four majors and says he has learned from those experiences.
“I have been out here awhile now,” Johnson said after shooting 65 in Saturday’s third round. “I've been in contention a lot, and I've got it done a lot of times. Tomorrow, it's no different. I’m going to have to play good golf if I want to win. It's simple; I've got to hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens.”
Johnson has always kept things simple and that might be one reason he has compiled his impressive record so quietly. But a victory in the PGA Championship will shout from the rooftops that Dustin Johnson is one of the best players of his generation.