Los Angeles (AFP) – Dustin Johnson returns to Riviera Country Club this week to defend the Genesis Open title that propelled him to number one in the world — and added an item to his Monday to-do list.
For a year now, Johnson’s been taking a weekly peek at the world rankings, and relishing seeing his name at the top.
“On Mondays, usually,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “Just to see what’s going on. I still don’t really understand them, but I could read ‘one.’”
This week Johnson became just the fifth player since the rankings were introduced in 1986 to hold the top spot for 52 consecutive weeks — joining a select group that includes Tiger Woods, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo and Rory McIlroy.
He hit the summit with a victory at a rain-soaked Riviera, playing 36 holes on Sunday on the way to a five-stroke win.
He followed up with victories at the World Golf Championships Mexico Championship and the WGC Match Play to stamp himself a prohibitive favorite for the Masters.
But a slip on the stairs of his rented home in Augusta ended his Masters bid before it started. He wouldn’t play again until May.
After a dominant victory in the Tournament of Champions last month and a tie for second at Pebble Beach last week, Johnson says his game is just about where it was this time last year.
“I felt like the game’s finally starting to come into really good form,” he said. “Even 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.
“It feels better today than it did last week, so that’s really good.”
In recent weeks, 23-year-old Spaniard Jon Rahm has challenged for Johnson’s number one spot. So far, with the top ranking on the line Rahm has failed to come through, and Johnson said the fight to maintain the ranking is extra motivation.
“It’s definitely difficult to stay number one,” he said. “I use it as motivation to keep working harder and to keep doing the things that I’m doing. It’s a lot of validation on the things that I’m working on.”
Johnson, who owns seven top-10 finishes in 10 starts at Riviera, will play alongside two-time former champion Bubba Watson and Australian Adam Scott, who claimed an unofficial victory in a rain-shortened edition of the tournament in 2005.
Johnson is hoping another strong showing on the classic course in the Pacific Palisades west of downtown Los Angeles will launch another dominant stretch.
He’s slated to defend both his WGC Mexico and WGC Match Play titles before he heads to Augusta, where he won’t be staying in the same rental house for the year’s first major.
“It just got bad juju,” he said. “So I’m not going there.”