REUTERS - Dustin Johnson took over from Jason Day as the number one player in world golf on Sunday following his victory at the PGA Tour’s Genesis Open in Los Angeles and said it had been quite a journey to reach the peak of his sport.
The American had been third in the world rankings before leapfrogging Australian Day, who had held the honour for 47 consecutive weeks.
U.S. Open champion Johnson needed to win the tournament and see Day finish worse than a tie for third to claim the number one ranking. He won by five strokes while Day finished in a tie for 64th.
Johnson, the 20th player to hold top spot since the inception of the rankings in 1986, said he liked the way ‘world number one’ sounded.
“It sounds good,” he said in a green-side interview after his victory at Riviera. “It gives me a lot of confidence. It’s going to push me to work even harder and try to get even better.”
He has come a long way from talented teenager in South Carolina to the top ranked player in the world.
”It’s been a long journey,“ said the 32-year-old. ”Growing up as a kid playing golf, the dream is to play on the PGA Tour.
“I never really thought about being number one on the world. Once I got up in the top 10 in the world I knew it was definitely do-able and here I am.”
Johnson grabbed top spot only two years after taking six months off to deal with what he described as “personal challenges”. He left the Tour in August of 2014 and returned to competition the following February.
When Johnson announced his decision to step away from golf, rumours about his lifestyle swirled. The PGA Tour, which initially said it did not comment on speculation, subsequently released a statement saying he had taken a voluntary leave of absence and had not been suspended.
American Tiger Woods holds the record for the longest time at number one -- 684 weeks in total including one stretch of 281 consecutive weeks.
Australian Greg Norman (331) is the only other player to have been number one for more than 100 weeks.
Johnson jumped to third last June when he won his first major, the U.S. Open, and moved up to second for much off the second half of 2016 before ending the year ranked third.
Though Johnson vows to defend his top spot as best he can, he knows it will not be easy.
“The guys out here are so good,” he said. “It’s going to be hard to maintain it.”
Reporting by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina and Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford