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Johnson victory puts him on top of the world

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Dustin Johnson’s raw talent and a trophy case that keeps growing allowed him to believe he was the best player in golf.

Now he can say it.


Even if he doesn’t understand the math involved with being No. 1.

Johnson extended a remarkable run, which began with his first major at the US Open last summer, with a five-shot victory in the Genesis Open that was never in doubt Sunday in Los Angeles. That elevated the 32-year-old American to No. 1 in the world for the first time.

Johnson doesn’t spend a lot of time crunching numbers, especially the computations for the world ranking. But he said he would look at it first thing in the morning.

‘‘I don’t really understand it,’’ he said. ‘‘But I can read 1-2-3. I guess that’s all that matters.’’

In a 36-hole Sunday brought on by weather delays at Riviera, all it took was five holes to put Johnson in charge. He finished the third round in the morning with three straight birdies for a 7-under-par 64 to build a five-shot lead. He started the final round with two straight birdies and eventually stretched his lead to nine shots.


He went 49 holes without a bogey.

Johnson didn’t know he was in range of the 72-hole scoring record at Riviera that dates to 1985, the longest standing on the PGA Tour schedule. He wasn’t thinking about reaching No. 1 in the world. All he cared about was winning at Riviera, one of his favorite courses where he had four chances to win in the last five years.

‘‘Winning the golf tournament . . . that’s what I was here to do,’’ he said.

Johnson, who made three meaningless bogeys over the last 10 holes for an even-par 71, became the 20th player to reach No. 1 since the world ranking began in 1986. He ended Jason Day’s 47-week stay at the top.

‘‘He deserves it because he’s been playing great golf,’’ Day said.

Johnson won for the fourth time against some of golf’s strongest fields in the last eight months — the US Open at Oakmont, a World Golf Championship at Firestone, a FedEx Cup playoff event at Crooked Stick, and the best field so far this year at Riviera. He has finished no worse than third in eight of his last 16 tournaments.

‘‘No surprise to us players, and I don’t think too much surprise to many others,’’ Jordan Spieth said.

And it’s not a surprise to Johnson.

Asked if he ever looked at himself as the best in the world even without the No. 1 ranking, Johnson smiled and said, ‘‘All the time.’’

‘‘I mean, I think I’m a good player,’’ he said. ‘‘Everybody has their own opinion. I believe in myself. I think I’m a great player. The best in the world? I mean, until now I probably wouldn’t have said I was the best in the world. But now I can say it.’’

He heard it, too, as the gallery on the hill surrounding the 18th green began chanting, ‘‘No. 1.’’

Johnson finished at 17-under 267. Lanny Wadkins won at Riviera in 1985 at 20-under 264. Johnson said he didn’t know what the record was, and once he made the turn with a seven-shot lead, he started playing away from trouble and at the middle of the greens.

‘‘I didn’t finish the last 10 holes the way I’d like to, but I had a pretty good lead. I was on cruise control,’’ Johnson said.

Told the record score, he said, ‘‘Next year.’’

Thomas Pieters and Scott Brown tied for second. No one had a chance to win as soon as Johnson began the final round with two straight birdies, but Pieters closed with a 63 and Brown shot a 68 to share second place at 12-under 272.

That’s a big step for Pieters to earn a PGA Tour card, and it assured him a spot in the next two World Golf Championships. Cameron Tringale, who played the final 36 holes with Johnson, also was at 12 under until a double bogey on the final hole dropped him to a tie for eighth.

PGA Tour rookie Wesley Bryan shot a 63 in the third round Sunday morning and got within two shots of Johnson, but only until Johnson finished off the third round with his stretch of birdies. Bryan shot 72 in the afternoon and tied for fourth.

Bryan went to the same high school as Johnson — Dutch Fork in South Carolina — though he played most of his golf with Johnson’s younger brother, Austin. He has seen enough of Johnson to realize this was inevitable.

‘‘Honestly, I’m surprised it took so long for him to get to No. 1 in the world,’’ Bryan said. He’s got all the talent that you could ever want in a golfer.’’

LPGA — Ha Na Jang had an eagle and three birdies over her last six holes in a superb finish that set up a three-shot victory in the Women’s Australian Open.

‘‘It’s a really good, strong finish. That is why it’s good sport today,’’ the South Korean said after closing with a 4-under 69 to finish at 10 under at Royal Adelaide.

No. 6-ranked Jang regained her composure after opening with a bogey in the last round and finished three shots ahead of Nanna Madsen, who finished with an even-par 73 for a 7-under total 285.

‘‘The first hole I was very nervous on the tee because I want to make birdie at every hole, more aggressive and try that,’’ said Jang, who claimed her fourth LPGA title and her first of the year. ‘‘After hole No. 1 it’s really tough day.’’

Haru Nomura, the 2016 champion, closed with a 73 to finish in a four-way tie for third place at 6 under with No. 2-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn and Australians Minjee Lee and Sarah Jane Smith.

Lizette Salas started Sunday with a two-stroke lead but struggled in the last round and closed with a 5-over 78 to fade into a share of seventh place at 5 under with six others, including fellow Americans Beth Allen, Marina Alex, and Canadian Maude-Aimee Leblanc in the LPGA event.

Top-ranked Lydia Ko finished well off the pace at 2 over with rounds of 71, 75, 73, and 75.

‘‘It was my first tournament back,’’ Ko said. ‘‘I think there are a lot of positive things to look at rather than thinking, ‘Hey, I shot over par.’ ’’

European — Brett Rumford beat Phachara Khongwatmai, 2 and 1, in the final round of match play to claim the first World Super 6 tournament title near where he grew up in West Australia.

The 39-year-old Rumford underwent surgery in 2015 to have a section of his small intestine removed after falling ill in South Africa and lost his European Tour card last year during a long winless stretch, but has earned back full status with his first win on the tour since 2013.

Rumford led by five strokes at 17-under 199 after 54 holes of stroke play in the experimental golf tournament at Lake Karrinyup Country Club in Western Australia, which is being sanctioned by the European, Asian, and Australasian tours.

Eliminations during three rounds of stroke play whittled the field down to 24 for five six-hole rounds of match play on Sunday. The top eight seeded players, led by Rumford, had a first-round bye.

Favorite Louis Oosthuizen, who had a share of second spot at 12 under going into the match play, lost to Adam Bland in the quarters after hitting his tee shot into a bunker on the third shootout hole, then missing a par putt.

Rumford beat Bland in the semifinals and then was too consistent against 17-year-old Phachara. — Andrew Putnam won the Panama Claro Championship for his second title, beating Chris Baker with an 18-foot birdie putt on the first hole of a playoff in Panama City.

Putnam closed with a 2-under 68 to match Baker (66) at 13-under 267 at Panama Golf Club.

The 28-year-old former Pepperdine player earned $112,500 to take the money lead with $171,100. The top 25 at the end of the regular season will earn PGA Tour cards for next season.

After the winning putt, Putnam was greeted by girlfriend Tawny. She had a feeling Putnam was going to close strong and flew all day to get to Panama City to surprise him.

‘‘I just had no idea she would ever do that,’’ Putnam said. ‘‘That’s awesome for me to make the winning putt and for her to fly down here not knowing if I was going to win.’’

He won on the par-4 18th with his only birdie of the week on the hole.

Champions — Fred Couples won the Chubb Classic for his 12th title and first since 2014, rallying to beat Miguel Angel Jimenez in Naples, Fla.

The 57-year-old Couples shot a bogey-free 5-under 67 to finish at 16-under 200 on the Talon Course, three strokes ahead of second-round leader Jimenez.

Also the 2010 event winner at The Quarry, Couples won for the first time since the 2014 Shaw Charity Classic in Alberta. The Hall of Famer, long hampered by back problems, won 15 times on the PGA Tour — his lone major coming in the 1992 Masters.

Couples had three birdies on the front nine, and matched Jimenez’s birdies on the par-4 14th and par-5 17th. Jimenez, a stroke ahead of playing partners Couples and Kevin Sutherland entering the round, shot a 71. The 53-year-old Spaniard bogeyed the par-4 18th.

Jerry Kelly closed with a 66 to tie for third at 11 under in his senior debut. The three-time PGA Tour winner turned 50 in November. Jeff Sluman (68) and Canada’s Rod Spittle (69) also were 11 under.

Sutherland followed his second-round 63 with a 73 to drop into a tie for sixth at 10 under with Bernhard Langer (69), Scott McCarron (67), and Jerry Smith (69).

Colin Montgomerie ran his under-par streak to 30, shooting a 71 to tie for 20th at 7 under.

John Daly tied for 30th at 5 under, shooting 68-74-69.

Couples opened with rounds of 68 and 65. He has broken 70 in all eight tour rounds this season, shooting 65-65 to finish second in Hawaii and 68-65-69 to tie for sixth in Boca Raton.

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