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Friday, March 1, 2024

Dustin in elite company with PGA win

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Hong Kong—One player’s amazing streak continued, Ryder Cup speculation grew and a player retired with an almost perfect finale — here are this week’s AFP Sport talking points in golf.

Dustin Johnson of the United States poses with the trophy after winning the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut. AFP

Dustin time

Dustin Johnson is back up to third in the world rankings after recording his 21st PGA Tour win since turning pro in 2008, a tally matched only by Tiger Woods over the same period.

World number one Rory McIlroy— who also began his pro career in 2008 —is next on the list with 18 PGA Tour titles in that time, but he has four majors and eight European Tour trophies whereas Johnson has only one of each. 

Johnson, however, kept up his incredible streak of winning at least once in each of his 13 seasons on the PGA Tour with victory at the Travelers Championship last weekend.

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At the age of 36, the victory puts Johnson three PGA Tour wins behind Gary Player, but with only one major to his name—the 2016 US Open—opinion is split as to whether he can yet be ranked among the all-time greats.

But consider this: only Arnold Palmer (17), Jack Nicklaus (17) and Tiger Woods (14) started their careers with wins in more consecutive seasons. Exalted company indeed. 

Surely the laid-back, big-hitting “DJ” is only a couple more major wins from being recognised as truly one of the game’s greatest.

Ryder doubts

Speculation has been growing that this year’s Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits will be postponed until 2021—with an announcement likely as early as this week. 

European Tour chief Keith Pelley orginally promised a decision by the end of June, when course preparations at the Wisconsin layout would need to begin in order to be ready for the September 25-27 USA v Europe showdown.

Many top players, including McIlroy and Brooks Koepka, have said that holding the noisiest event in golf without colourful galleries of partisan fans would be unthinkable.

The US PGA Championship, the first major of the year in August, has already announced that it will be played without spectators, and there has been a surge in coronavirus cases in the US over recent days.

With five PGA Tour players testing positive for COVID-19 in the past week and the European Tour unable to restart until next month, the most responsible course of action would seem to be reverting to odd-numbered years for the first time since 1999—the 2001 event was postponed for 12 months because of the 9/11 attacks.

Extra time

American journeyman Daniel Summerhays came within a whisker of a Cinderella sign-off as a professional at the weekend.

The 36-year-old had ground out eight seasons on the PGA Tour without a victory until losing his card in 2017.

Further lean years followed, and Summerhays announced last week that the Korn Ferry’s Utah Championship on his home course would be his final tournament before taking up a new career as a high school teacher.

And then he nearly won it.

Summerhays saved his best till last, signing for a nine-under par 62 on Sunday and the clubhouse lead at 20 under.

Three hours later he found himself in a playoff with Paul Haley II and Kyle Jones but agonisingly the fairytale ending did not materialise as Summerhays bogeyed the first playoff hole. Jones won a hole later.

But a beaming Summerhays was still grateful for the chance. “Oh man, to be in that position, to be able to have a little bit of extra golf was spectacular,” he told the Golf Channel.

And the performance had not changed his mind about retirement. “When it comes time for school in August, that’s where I’ll be,” he added.

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