Johnson rolls to Genesis Open win, grabs No. 1 ranking

(TSX / STATS) -- PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- So many negatives for Dustin Johnson, the collapse at the 2010 U.S. Open, the six months away from golf for "personal issues" -- was it a suspension for cocaine? -- the three-putt bogey at the 72nd hole that kept him out of a playoff for the 2015 U.S. Open.

What was wrong with the guy? So much talent. So many near misses. So much criticism about his personal life.

The answer came quickly enough, with a return that is shaking the sport. He is back, and in the most emphatic of ways, a father -- and his fiancee, Paulina Gretzky, is expecting again -- and a champion.

He won his first major title at the U.S. Open last June at Oakmont. Then Sunday, the longest day after a week of rain finally gave way to sunshine, he won the tournament that had vexed him, if by another name, now the Genesis Open, the former Los Angeles, Nissan and Northern Trust Open.

Five times previously at famed Riviera Country Club, "Hogan's Alley," "The Home of Stars," Johnson was in the top five, twice finishing second, two years ago losing in a playoff.

Then, retribution. Then success. Then Sunday with rounds of 7-under-par 64 followed immediately by a 71, he stomped Riviera and the rest of the field, shooting 17-under 267 and finishing five shots in front of Belgium's Thomas Pieters and Scott Brown, who tied for second at 272. Wesley Bryan, Kevin Na, Charley Hoffman and England's Justin Rose tied for fourth at 273.

Then for Johnson, a leap into first place in the Official World Golf Ranking, ahead of Australia's Jason Day, who held the top position the past 47 weeks.

"It feels good," Johnson said, "to finally win because I've been so close quite a few times, and it's one of my favorite courses to play all year. So, yeah, it feels great to finally get a win."

Johnson, 32, got it by making the bogey a rare object until the final holes, when he became weary, understandable for one teeing off at off at 7 a.m. after arising at 4 a.m., then walking 36 holes on soggy fairways.

Until then, Johnson had only one bogey the first 62 holes -- and no bogies for 49 consecutive holes, from his 13th in the first round to his ninth in the fourth round. He bogeyed three of his final 10.

"I had a pretty big lead there with 10 holes to go," said Johnson, who at one point was eight ahead, "so I kind of was on cruise control. But I would have liked to play better the last 10 holes."

Johnson said of his career that includes 13 wins and finally is rocketing up, "I was kind of top 10 for a long time. Then starting last summer after I won the U.S. Open, that just kind of propelled me a little bit. All the things I've been working on are paying off.

"So now, getting to No. 1, finally obviously, it's a great honor, and it's going to push me to continue to work harder."

Johnson was a shot in front beginning the two rounds Sunday. Quickly he ended any competition.

"I played some really good golf," he said. "I put in a new driver (a Taylor Made M1) this week, and I drove it really well. I never was really in trouble. I didn't make any bogeys."

Riviera, built in the 1920s, where Howard Hughes and W.C. Fields once played, is old-fashioned, narrow fairways between eucalyptus and oak trees, in a canyon maybe a mile from the Pacific Ocean. When the great Bobby Jones came to Riviera, he said about the difficulty, "A fine course, but where do the members play?"

Johnson, who spends some time at Wayne Gretzky's home the other side of the Santa Monica Mountains, said Riviera fits his eye and his game. He struggled to break through, however.

"It's been a long journey," said Johnson, who, having grown up in South Carolina, could have meant that literally as well as figuratively. "Growing up as a kid, playing golf, kind of a dream is to play on the PGA Tour. I never really thought about being No. 1 in the world.

"But once I got on Tour and started winning, I knew it was doable. And here I am."

NOTES: Ollie Schniederjans, Cameron Tringale and Scotland's Martin Laird shared eighth place at 274. ... Jordan Spieth tied for 22nd place at 278, while Phil Mickelson tied for 34th at 280. ... One more reminder how quickly things can change in golf. Pat Perez started the third round one shot behind Johnson and finished it 11 shots behind, with Johnson shooting 64 and Perez 74. Perez closed with a 72 and finished tied for 28th.

Updated February 19, 2017