A casual observer likely would not have realized the history made solely from the moment alone. A stoic Dustin Johnson, with a short tap-in and a quiet fist pump. It appeared, on the surface, like any other win under his belt.
But when Johnson raised the venerable Gene Sarazen Cup in 2017—its classic, yet intricate blue and gold design glistening under the Mexico City sun—he etched his name in the history books. With his victory in the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship, he became just the fifth player in the storied history of the game to win his first tournament as the world’s No. 1-ranked player.
Johnson is back this week to defend his crown at Club de Golf Chapultepec. With a diverse field from across the globe set to challenge him, will history repeat itself or give way to a new victor?
“Obviously it’s a big tournament,” he said of last year’s event. “Most of the best players in the world are here.”
It could be an Australian that stakes their claim to that big tournament. With four players in the field—headlined by the PGA TOUR’s Marc Leishman—the country is primed to appear at the top of the Sunday leaderboards.
Leishman, ranked No. 23 in the FedEx Cup standings, is off to a strong start this season. He has three top-10 finishes to his name so far, including a runner-up finish at the inaugural CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES in October, where he fell in a playoff to Justin Thomas. He also tied for seventh at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and tied for eighth at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Joining him representing Australia are Adam Bland, Wade Ormsby and Brett Rumford. All four will have a chance to build on their country’s success in World Golf Championship events—Adam Scott won this same event in 2016, while Geoff Ogilvy took home the title in 2008.
Leishman is currently in the midst of his best stretch of golf in some time. He ended a five-year drought on the PGA TOUR this time a year ago, when he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, before following suit with the BMW Championship in September.
His confidence should be high heading to Mexico City.
“It would be nice to just keep playing the way I’m playing and hopefully seal up the TOUR Championship earlier so you can go into the playoffs not thinking about getting into the TOUR Championship, you’re thinking about winning tournaments,” he said at Sentry. “I feel like when you’re thinking about winning tournaments rather than turning up and trying to make a cut it’s easier to play well. Doing that stress-free when you’re not having to worry about keeping your card or anything like that, it’s a lot easier to do.”
In all, 64 players from 19 different countries will navigate the narrow, tree-lined Club de Golf Chapultepec as they vie for the first World Golf Championships tournament of the calendar year, including 38 from outside the United States. England claimed the first World Golf Championships event of the season in a stunner, when Justin Rose rallied Sunday from eight shots back of Johnson to win the HSBC Champions last October in Shanghai.
At 2,225 meters above sea level, players in the Mexico Championship are already standing high before play even begins. Time will tell if it will be an Australian standing higher than the rest at the end.
(Story courtesy of The PGA Tour)