By Joe Smeltzer
Akron, OH — Dustin Johnson has developed into one of the best players in the world over the past decade and comes into this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational having won the RBC Heritage.
Since 2008, Johnson, who is atop the World Golf rankings, has 19 PGA tour wins with his biggest coming at the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club. Despite his success, Johnson has never finished a year with his name at the top of the FedExCup standings, but he is in position to change that in 2018.
“That would be fantastic, something I haven’t accomplished,” Johnson said. “I’ve still got a lot of work to do. There’s a lot of big golf tournaments left, including this week. Coming off of last week with a win, I feel like the game’s in really good form, I just [have to] keep working at it.”
With only this week’s Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio, and the PGA Championship that begins August 9 remaining before the FedExCup Playoffs commence August 26, Johnson leads the standings with 2,513 points, 527 ahead of the rest of the field. Second to Johnson is last year’s FedExCup champion, Justin Thomas.
Thomas is not far behind Johnson in the Official World Golf Rankings, either. He is currently ranked third in the world behind Johnson and Justin Rose.
As its defending FedExCup champion, the position that Thomas is in is different from Johnson, as well as everybody else on Tour. Thomas not only has a chance to repeat as champion but if he does so, he would be the first to go back-to-back since the Tiger Woods was the inaugural winner in 2007.
“The good news for me is I’m the only one that has the opportunity to [repeat],” Thomas said. “So I’m looking forward to embracing the challenge. I can’t believe that we’re already almost at the Playoffs. I probably say that every year around this time, but [there are] two events left, and I was looking at it and I feel like I’m in a pretty similar position [as I was in] last year.”
Since Thomas won his first major tournament at the PGA Championship in Charlotte, N.C. last August, he’s been near the top of the leaderboard several times over the past year. His six top-10 finishes in 2018 include a win at the Honda Classic in late February, which was preceded by a victory at the CJ Cup last October.
Over the past month, Thomas has experienced his share of struggles, tying for 56th at the Travelers Championship in late-June and most recently, missing the cut at the Open Championship in Carnoustie, Scotland.
“I had a lot of really good finishes [this year] other than two weeks,” he said. “I double-bogeyed the last hole at the U.S. Open or it would have been a top-15 finish, I think, and played poorly at the Travelers, and then just had one bad day, or actually one bad stretch of three holes at the [Open Championship]. Otherwise, I probably would be top-15 in every event I played this year.
Over the past decade, Johnson has placed in the top-10 of the FedExCup standings eight times and the top-five twice. The closest Johnson’s came to winning was in 2016, when he finished runner-up, 740 points behind winner Rory McIlroy. So far Johnson and Bubba Watson are the only players with three PGA Tour wins in 2018, with Johnson’s most recent triumph coming at last week’s RBC Canadian Open. Johnson has a chance to continue his recent run of form starting Thursday at the Bridgestone Invitational.
Johnson said enjoys playing at Firestone Country Club— mainly when things are going his way.
“To me, it’s a fun golf course to play, especially if you’re playing well,” Johnson said. “If you’re not playing well, it sucks to play this place, it does, because it’s hard. If you’re not hitting it where you want to, this is going to be a long day.”
This year’s FedExCup playoffs consist of four events between August 23 and September 23. The locations are;
The Northern Trust— Ridgewald Country Club, Parmus, New Jersey, Aug 23-26
Dell Technologies Championship— TPC Boston, Norton, Massachusetts, Aug 31- Sept 3
BMW Championship, Aronimink, GC, Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, Sept. 6-9
TOUR Championship, East Lake GC, Atlanta, Georgia, Sept 20-23
Zachary Weiss also contributed to this article