Looking ahead to The Open contenders
Dustin Johnson stormed to the top of the world rankings by winning the Genesis Open in February and celebrated by winning his very next tournament, the WGC-Mexico Championship in March.
It has been a sensational start to 2017 and he has put some distance between himself and the chasing pack of Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. But it is early days and his success will ultimately be judged by how he performs in the majors.
He won his first last year when he claimed the US Open, finishing three strokes ahead of Jim Furyk, Shane Lowry and Scott Piercy. He also finished the season as the leading money winner on the PGA tour, posted the best average score and won the PGA Player of the Year and PGA Tour Player of the Year awards, so the continuation of his meteoric rise in early 2017 was not exactly surprising. But McIlroy finished 2016 in sensational form and golf is so competitive right now, making his achievement very impressive indeed.
But to cement his status as one of the greats of the modern game, Johnson needs another major this year. So which of the four is he most likely to win? According to the bookmakers, it is the third major of the year, The Open, held at Royal Birkdale in July.
A William Hill review of the odds and a round up of other online betting sites shows that on average Johnson is the favourite to win The Open, ahead of McIlroy, Day, Spieth, the 2016 winner Henrik Stenson and Hideki Matsuyama. Some bookmakers have McIlroy as favourite, but most have gone for Johnson and he is best priced at 9/1, while you can get 10/1 on McIlroy. Royal Birkdale should suit Johnson’s game as he hits his drivers and three-woods so far, whole his wedge play has improved exponentially, and it is the perfect course for him to showcase his talents.
In the other majors, he is less heavily favoured. First up is the Masters, and it is pretty difficult to dislodge Spieth as the favourite for this one. He has dominated Augusta in recent years: he finished runner-up on his debut in 2014, won it in 2015 and led for the whole way last year only to blow a five-shot lead and lose to Danny Willett courtesy of a quadruple bogey. Spieth is understandably the favourite at 7/1 to win it, but since the start of the year the odds on Johnson have gone all the way in from 10/1 to 15/2. That is a sign of how impressive his start to the year has been, and it has seen him overtake McIlroy in the betting to become second favourite.
But the Northern Irishman is still expected to be the dominant force in 2017 by the bookmakers. He showed how good he is by winning the Tour Championship and the BMW Championship to seize the FedEx Cup and the $10 million prize pot towards the end of 2016, and now he has shaken off an injury he is ready for an assault on 2017. McIlroy is heavy favourite for both the US PGA Championship and also heads the betting for the US Open. If the bookmakers are right he will win half of the year’s majors. But Johnson is the second favourite for both tournaments and there is a lot of golf to play between now and then. Right now he is the most in-form player in the world, and the odds on him winning majors look only set to drop, so if you fancy him to do it, it might be worth backing him sooner rather than later. We know he has the power, but his mental strength has really shone through in recent months and right now he is the man to beat on tour.