MEXICO CITY – Dustin Johnson has made his fame and fortune on the PGA Tour by being one of the longest hitters in the world, but it was his all-around game that was on display this week as he posted a five-shot victory at 21-under-par 263 after the final round of play Sunday at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City.
Johnson had six birdies on Sunday along with a bogey, his first of the week though he did have a double-bogey in the third round, while carding a 5-under 66 on Sunday as he was never seriously threatened after sleeping on a four-shot lead.
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy finished second after a 67 on Sunday while three players — Paul Casey (65) and Ian Poulter (68), both of England, and Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat (68) — finished in a tie for third at 11 under.
Johnson did a little bit of everything and did it all really well while winning this event for the second time in three years; he finished tied for seventh in 2018 when the tournament was won by Phil Mickelson.
Earlier this month Johnson won the inaugural Saudi International on the European Tour by two strokes from China’s Li Haotong. The win in Saudi Arabia was Johnson’s sixth European Tour title, but first regular tour event, outside of the majors and WGCs.
“I struggled the past couple of weeks, and I didn’t think my game was in very good form at the Saudi even though I won there,” Johnson said. “I worked on it, and I hit the ball really well this week.”
Most of the hard work was done over the first three days, when Johnson sprinted to the lead. This tournament sported the best field assembled this year on the PGA Tour, but Johnson was far and away the top player this week.
“I definitely felt some nerves at the beginning of the day, but I made some good par-saves on the front nine and it gave me the momentum,” Johnson said. “I knew I was swinging it well but I just needed to give myself some chances, and I turned it on on the back nine.”
It was the eighth time in 16 events that Johnson has won when leading after 54 holes. The victory extended Johnson’s streak of winning at least one PGA Tour event to 12 consecutive seasons, dating to his rookie season in 2008, the longest active streak on the circuit.
McIlroy, who — along with Patrick Reed — played in the final group with Johnson, never got closer to the lead than two strokes early in the round as he forged a seven-birdie, three-bogey round. Any chance McIlroy had to make a run at Johnson died after bogeys on the fourth and sixth holes.
“I played good this week, and if someone would have told me beginning the tournament that I would shoot 16 under I probably would have taken it,” said McIlroy, who recorded his fourth straight top-five finish.
“Some weeks a guy just plays better than you and that’s what happened,” added McIlroy, who is a combined 56-under-par in his first four starts of the year. “DJ had a four-shot lead going out there today and then shot a five-under, and (when that happens) you are not getting beaten. He was so impressive over the weekend and definitely deserved to win.”
Johnson began the final 18 holes at 16 under and well clear of McIlroy. Reed, Patrick Cantlay, Australia’s Cameron Smith and Spain’s Sergio Garcia were seven shots back of Johnson at 9 under to start the day. No one in that group made any kind of real charge, and Johnson rolled to the win.
Cantlay, Garcia, and Smith all shot 70s on Sunday and finished in a tie for sixth at 10 under. Reed shot 73, finishing in a tie for 14th at 7 under.
Justin Thomas had the week’s best round with a 62 on Sunday that allowed him to move up 28 spots to a solo ninth at 9 under. He started the day on the back nine at 16 shots behind Johnson and missed a 14-foot birdie to fall one short of the course record, which was set by Thomas in the last year’s third round.
“I was hitting [the] driver everywhere,” Thomas said. “I felt like I was driving it well enough to where I could create a significant advantage for myself. I was just trying to go as low as I could to finish as high as I could. I knew I obviously had zero chance to win the golf tournament.”
Tiger Woods, playing competitively in Mexico this week for the first time, managed a 69 on Sunday to finish in a tie for 10th at 8 under along with Joost Luiten (64) of the Netherlands, Keegan Bradley (65), and David Lipsky (69).
The 34-year-old Johnson became one of six players since 1966 to win 20 times on the PGA Tour before turning 35, joining Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Johnny Miller, Woods and Phil Mickelson.
“To get 20 wins out here is very difficult, and to do it before I turn 35 is pretty incredible,” Johnson said. “This is a big win for me and it gives me a lot of confidence for the rest of the year.”
Johnson joined Woods as the only players to win the same WGC event three times. It was his sixth WGC title, putting him just 12 behind Woods. Johnson is the only player to win all four WGC events.
The PGA Tour returns to the United States next week for the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Thomas is the defending champion of the event.
–Field Level Media