By DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — During his march to victory in the Dell Technologies Match Play, Dustin Johnson at times looked as though he had no pulse.
“It’s beating — not very fast,” he said. “Sometimes it gets going pretty good. It just depends if I’m walking up a steep hill or something.”
Big celebrations are simply not part of his repertoire, and Johnson is OK with that. Asked if he had ever really lost control of his emotions during a big moment, he thought for a second and shook his head.
“I’m OK with my little fist pump,” he said.
But here’s another element to the world’s No. 1 player — despite 15 victories on the PGA Tour, including a major, Johnson has never really had a reason to celebrate.
He won his first event as a rookie at Turning Stone with birdies on the last two holes, but he still had to wait for Charles Howell III to finish to clinch the title.
The only other time he won by one shot with a birdie on the last hole was in 2010 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am, but that was a simple up-and-down from the bunker right of the green on the par-5 18th. He blasted out to 3 feet and lightly pumped his fist when he made the putt.
Johnson only had to two-putt for par when he won at Cog Hill, Doral and Memphis. He won by multiple shots at Kapalua and Riviera.
“There was one moment when I lost it a little bit,” Johnson said.
He thought back to Saturday afternoon in the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah, when he and Matt Kuchar were all square against Nicolas Colsaerts and Paul Lawrie. In an amphitheater setting around the par-3 17th filled with raucous fans, Johnson made a tough, sliding 20-foot birdie putt that led to a 1-up victory.
It was one of the loudest cheers of the week, and Johnson apparently couldn’t contain himself. He moved to the left as the ball broke toward the cup, and when it dropped for a birdie, he gave a long, slow uppercut. And then he walked to the hole and removed the ball from the cup.
In the background, Kuchar was doing a pirouette as he slammed his fist.
For Johnson, it really was a big moment. His pulse must have been at least 60.
“Maybe 65,” Johnson replied.
CHINA SERIES: Three years after the PGA Tour China Series started, it might not be played this year.
The tour, which already has produced Li Haotong and Dou Ze-cheng, was supposed to begin its fourth season this month. Instead, the website says only that “information on the 2017 schedule is coming soon.”
“There’s a good chance that it won’t happen this year and that we may take a year off,” PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said Tuesday. “There’s also a good chance that it will happen. There’s a fair amount of relationship complexity that we’re dealing with and so that’s the basis for it.”
The initial three-year deal ended after the 2016 season with the China Golf Association and the China Olympic Sports Industry. Monahan did not say what the issues were that was delaying the start of a fourth season.
“You learn a lot — things you love, things you want to change. That’s where there’s a difference of opinion that’s giving us a hard time getting this extended.”
Monahan does not like to give odds on anything, though he added that without a clear answer at this stage, “that’s cause for concern.”
The PGA Tour also runs similar circuits for Latin America and Canada, and it was clear Monahan wanted to see China continue. The tour has an office in China and one of the World Golf Championships (HSBC Champions) is in Shanghai.
“We have a lot invested in that,” he said. “We really want to make that work.”
A NOD TO NICKLAUS: Tiger Woods was at No. 1 for a record 281 consecutive weeks from 2005 to 2010. Since then, eight players have taken turns at the top, which led to the notion that Woods was as close to a machine as anyone else.
Rory McIlroy went back a little further.
Don’t forget about Jack Nicklaus, who won his 18th major at age 46 the week the world ranking began. McIlroy watched the Golf Channel documentary on Nicklaus that was shown right after the Masters.
“It was incredible what he did. It really was,” McIlroy said. “I never saw Jack in his prime. He won the Masters in ’86. I was born in ’89, so I never really saw him when he was right at the peak of his powers, but that three-series documentary and just some of the stuff that he’s done and what he was able to accomplish, I think he had a great balance in his life between going and being with his family but also being this unbelievable competitor on the course.
“So Tiger for a stretch, yes, of course, I mean he was so dominant,” McIlroy said. “But then you see what Jack did over the course of a 25-year career, 30-year career. That’s so impressive.”
SPLITTING TOURS: Bob Estes is among several players who are trying to split time between the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions upon turning 50.
Only there’s a twist for the 51-year-old Texan.
Estes has 14 events left on a major medical extension that dates to the 2013-14 season. He didn’t play at all the following year because of a shoulder injury, and he teed it up just once last season.
Why not just go to the 50-and-older circuit?
“Because I can still beat these guys,” said Estes, who is approaching the 15-year anniversary of his last win.
Like most players in his position, Estes realizes the answer of where he belongs will come from his scores and his finishes. In the meantime, he’s having a tough time setting a schedule for both tours while trying to see if he can keep his PGA Tour card.
He would like to play the Senior PGA Championship in two weeks, but he’s trying to get in Colonial, one of his favorite events. Estes said if he’s eligible for Colonial and plays the Senior PGA, it would count against his medical.
“If I’m not in the Colonial, I’ll play the Senior PGA,” he said. “And if I do get in Colonial, I’ll probably play there. I understand the policy. But should it apply to a senior major? Why are you going to dock me one for playing the Senior Open or the Senior PGA? The policy is probably the way it should be, but minus the majors.”
Estes said he was told the tour was going to discuss it at a meeting during Colonial, of all places.
NO ESCAPING GOLF: It seems everything in Adam Scott’s life is affiliated with golf.
He lives part of the year in Switzerland in a villa named Turnberry. His home in Sanctuary Cove in the Gold Coast of Australia is on Muirfield Place.
Scott also has a home at Albany in the Bahamas, which has several street names related to golf.
“Not good. It’s on Woods Drive,” Scott with a smile. “I could not make this stuff up if I tried.”
DIVOTS: Retired Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will have to dream another day about winning the U.S. Open. Romo shot a 3-over 75 in a local qualifier in Texas on Monday and missed advancing to the final stage of qualifying by six shots. Romo reached the sectional stage in 2010 but withdrew. … Sharmila Nicollet of India won the final spot in the ShopRite LPGA Classic by winning a fan poll on Twitter to get a sponsor exemption. She beat out Blair O’Neal by 9 percentage points. … No. 1 in women’s golf will be up for grabs next week in the Kingsmill Championship. Lydia Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn and So Yeon Ryu are separated by an average of about 0.3 points.
STAT OF THE WEEK: The winner of The Players Championship earns $1,890,000. Arnold Palmer’s career earnings on the PGA Tour were $1,861,857.
FINAL WORD: “I don’t think anything fazes him. That’s probably the understatement of the year.” — Rory McIlroy on Dustin Johnson.
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