The record will show that Dustin Johnson won the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship by five shots, a margin that would imply he waltzed to victory in the thin air at Club de Golf Chapultepec.
But with Rory McIlroy in his grill from Thursday on, this was far from a cakewalk 7,800 feet above sea level as Johnson called on his immense talents to secure his sixth WGC title and the 20th PGA Tour title of his career.
With his prodigious length, superb accuracy off the tees and into the greens, and a putter that led the field in that category, Johnson signed for rounds of 64-67-66-66 to finish at 21 under and five shots clear of McIlroy.
He was 13 shots clear of Tiger Woods, who fought a balky putter all week and finished in a tie for 10th.
Johnson’s 263 is the lowest total by five shots in the three years the tournament has been played here. The previous low was established by Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas last year.
“I felt like all week I’ve really had control of the golf ball,” said Johnson, 34, who worked on various parts of his swing after he talked with his coach, Butch Harmon, at the start of the week. “I hit a lot of really good shots and rolled the putter pretty well. You know, for me today was a big day. I knew Rory was going to be coming at me pretty good.
“I knew I needed to play a really good round if I wanted to win.”
Johnson took a four-shot advantage into the final round, but the lead was just two after three holes as McIlroy made birdie on the second and Johnson made bogey on the third. The lead was back to four after the sixth hole as McIlroy drove his tee shot behind a tree, was not allowed a free drop, and made bogey as Johnson canned a 9-footer for birdie.
The lead was never fewer than three the rest of the way despite McIlroy making six birdies in his last eight holes. Johnson made sure of that as he made five birdies on his closing nine.
For the week, Johnson carded only two holes over par – a double-bogey six on the 10th in the third round and the bogey on the third Sunday.
“Whenever you drive it like he does and you’re No. 1 in putting, it’s going to be pretty hard to beat that,” said McIlroy, who shot 63-70-68-67. “So I played well, fought back on the back nine, shot a good score in the end. But when DJ’s got a four‑shot lead and goes out and shoots 5 under, he’s not going to lose.”
For McIlroy, he hasn’t won since last year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. Since then, he’s been in the final group on Sunday eight times. This year he’s tied for fourth in the Sentry Tournament of Champions, tied for fifth in the Farmers Insurance Open, tied for fourth in the Genesis Open and finished second this week.
This is the first time in McIlroy’s PGA Tour career that he’s had four consecutive top-5 finishes. He’s 54 under par in his last four starts.
“Some weeks you play well, and someone just plays better. That’s what DJ did this week,” McIlroy said. “I’m not frustrated because it seems like I can only do what I can do, and I can only control me. I’ve played well. I’ve done what I’ve wanted to do and needed to do. So the game’s good. It’s just about staying patient, and hopefully one of these weeks it will fall my way.”
It’s fallen Johnson’s way twice now in Mexico. He won the championship two years ago when the tournament moved here, and he finished in a tie for seventh last year. He likes the tight, tree-lined course and the thin air doesn’t bother him.
“You have to focus on every single shot, just because with the elevation and calculating the numbers. And then the wind was blowing this week, too. So there was a lot of calculations going on,” said Johnson, who climbed to No. 2 in the official world golf ranking – just 0.01 points behind Justin Rose. “That definitely made me stay really focused on what I was doing and exactly how far I wanted to play the shot.
“I felt like I did a really good job of that this whole week.”
He’s done a really good job for most of his career. His 20th PGA Tour title will earn him lifetime membership in three years. Johnson is playing in just his 12th season, and one needs 20 wins and 15 years on the Tour to receive lifetime membership.
Johnson is just the 38th player to win 20 times on Tour, and the first since Davis Love III accomplished the feat in 2008.
He will gladly wait for his lifetime status – and do everything he can to add more victories to his resume.
“I definitely wanted to get to that 20 number,” he said. “I would have liked to have done it a little bit quicker, but I’m pleased with where I’m at. To get 20 wins, that’s a very big accomplishment and I’m very proud of myself for doing it.”