McIlroy falters as Dustin Johnson claims WGC title
Error-strewn closing round of 71 is only good enough for a share of seventh place
Dustin Johnson wins the WGC-Mexico Championship golf tournament at Chapultecpec Golf Club. Photograph: Orlando Ramirez/USA Today
Dustin Johnson is getting used to sealing the deal, and the world number one – a winner of the Genesis Open on his last competitive outing last month – secured back-to-back victories on the PGA Tour when claiming the WGC-Mexico Championship at Chapultecpec Golf Club, on the outskirts of Mexico City. Los Angeles? Mexico? Different places, same result.
But he had to win ugly in some ways, as he fought off a challenge from the 22-year-old Spanish tour rookie Jon Rahm – a former world amateur number one – who fought the good fight until two late bogeys sabotaged his quest for glory in his maiden WGC appearance.
Johnson shot a final round 68 for 270, 14-under-par, to claim a one stroke victory over England’s Tommy Fleetwood – who rolled in a 30-footer for birdie on the 18th for a closing 66 for 271– while Rahm finished in a share of third with another Englishman Ross Fisher, who included nine birdies in his final round 65.
“I’m really confident in the game. I feel like I’ve got a lot of control of the golf ball right now,” said Johnson prior to his round. And although holding a four stroke lead at one point of his final round, and then slipping a stroke behind Rahm at another stage, Johnson showed his class with a recovery shot from a fairway bunker on the last to hit the green and two putt for a finishing par. It gave him a fourth WGC career title.
Having trailed Johnson by four strokes going into the back nine, Rahm made a charge with an eagle on the 11th and birdies on the 14th and 15th to get to 14-under, briefly moving ahead of Johnson before the world number one, in the group behind, also birdied the 15th.
But Rahm’s challenge fizzled out late on as he suffered back-to-back bogeys on the 16th and 17th – both three-putts – handed the initiative back to Johnson, who became only the third player to win a WGC in his first tournament as world number one. The other two? Tiger Woods . . . . and McIlroy!
McIlroy, who’d led at the halfway point, had a tough weekend. On Saturday, he had more than a passing interest in the on-course antics of Phil Mickelson as, playing alongside him, he admitted to being distracted as the American found parts of the courses, old sprinkler heads and spent time engaging with rules officials as to how and where he could take drops.
“Felt like it was hard to get into any sort of rhythm as well. Felt like we were waiting a lot around the turn with Phil sort of hitting it, you know, a little bit everywhere. So it was hard to get into any sort of rhythm and it sort of affected me a little bit,” claimed McIlroy.
In his final round, there were no such distractions but McIlroy – playing his first tournament after a seven week break in recuperating from a stress fracture to ribs – found it difficult to get into any rhythm in playing catch-up on 54 holes leader Johnson.
McIlroy suffered his first bogey of the round on the Par 3 third hole where his tee shot finished in a greenside bunker and, after splashing out to 20 feet, missed his par putt. A birdie on the Par 5 sixth saw him recover but it was short-lived as he bogeyed the Par 3 seventh where he three-putted. He would have to wait until the 14th before managing to claim the second birdie, rolling in a 10-footer to return to 10-under. It was as good as it got for McIlroy, who closed with a 71 for 274 which left him in tied-seventh.