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Where will Dustin Johnson rank amongst the greats?

By Ken Willis | Daytona Beach News-Journal
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There's no doubting who currently rules the golfing world.

Dustin Johnson took over the top spot in the World Golf Rankings with his mid-February win at the Genesis Open in Los Angeles.

Let's say he's tightened his grip since then: Two starts, both with world-class fields, and two more wins, including this past week's Match Play Championship in Texas. He'll enter this year's first major -- next week's Masters Tournament -- as the obvious favorite, or no worse than co-favorite with Jordan Spieth.

Following a breakthrough major championship in last year's U.S. Open, DJ has proven very comfortable in his role as an elite golfer who now has a portfolio to go along with all those physical gifts.

At age 32, with all the off-course tumult of his 20s seemingly left behind, he's a man at the very top of his profession. There's no argument there. Where he'll eventually land in golf's historical pantheon, however, is still open for debate.

Right here and right now, from this angle, it's easy to suggest he'll fit into one of two slots: Either a late bloomer or a perceived underachiever.

Examples? Yes, we have examples.

Late Bloomers

Ben Hogan: Bantam Ben is largely regarded as the greatest-ever striker of a golf ball. He literally wrote the book on the golf swing. He was 34 before getting his first major, the 1946 PGA. Over the next seven years, he added eight more, including four U.S. Opens.

Payne Stewart: Where Hogan's swing was the model of mechanical efficiency, Stewart's was an aesthetic beauty. But his career was mostly one of close calls and near misses before, at age 32, he made the '89 PGA Championship his fifth career win. Two years later he won the U.S. Open, then added another Open in '99 before his tragic death.

Phil Mickelson: To many, Lefty's big-tournament losses are more legendary than his wins. Finally, at age 33 and after so many disappointments, he won the 2004 Masters. He added two more Masters, as well as a PGA and British Open over the next nine years to plant himself in the upper rungs of golf's all-time greats.

What could've been ...

Tom Weiskopf: The "Towering Inferno" followed Jack Nicklaus from Ohio State and was destined to follow Jack into greatness. His physical tools gave his swing a mix of power and fluidity, but life in Jack's bear-sized shadow beat him down. Weiskopf's lone major was the 1973 British Open. In his future role with CBS, it was best summed up in his call of Jack's tee shot to the 16th in the '86 Masters. When asked by Jim Nantz what was going through Jack's mind, he said, "If I knew the way he thought, I would've won this tournament."

Greg Norman: It seems absurd to hang the underachiever tag on a guy who won two British Opens, 91 worldwide professional tournaments, and spent 331 weeks atop the world golf rankings. But the Shark's heartbreaks and collapses are legendary. His brilliant overall game was most notable for a combination of length and accuracy off the tee, and that, along with his athletic superiority, makes him modern history's best comparison to Dustin Johnson.

David Duval: He had seven runner-up finishes in his first two years on the Tour before his first win in 1997. Over the next four years, he won 12 more times, punctuated by the 2001 British Open. At age 29, that was his last win. Two different times, he took away Tiger Woods' No. 1 world ranking, and they seemed destined for a longtime rivalry. But Duval finished with those 13 wins and one major.

This article is written by Ken Willis from Daytona Beach News - Journal, The and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.