Monday, September 13, 2010

Dustin Johnson: Closing In On Player Of The Year

If the vote were taken this week, Dustin Johnson is my player of the year.

I'm leaving a little wiggle room because it's possible Matt Kuchar, the leader prior to the BMW Championship, could nail it down next week with a victory at the Tour Championship at East Lake, a place with which he's very familiar.

Johnson, though, has become a compelling figure for both his golf and the way he's handled a borderline nightmare season. The Sunday meltdown at the US Open would be enough to mentally cripple most guys but not Johnson. Then the wrenching events on the 72nd hole at the PGA Championship could have destroyed him.

Instead, Johnson kept grinding, showed he could shake it off and now he may win the big $10 million prize next week in Atlanta.

Even if he doesn't, he's won an immense amount of respect for his game and his handling of a potentially devastating season.

If the question is where does golf go if Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods don't return to their former glory, the answer may be Johnson. With his power, he's capable of dominating almost any course. He's not the best wedge player in the world but he's good enough and sure to get better.

Before the Open and PGA, Johnson was a tough guy to get a read on. The talent was apparent but he's quiet and, therefore, he didn't jump out as a character. After his summer of discontent, Johnson has emerged as a star and an increasingly popular one.

When the American team heads to Wales in three weeks, Johnson is going to be central to captain Corey Pavin's plan for keeping the Ryder Cup. There's plenty of speculation that Pavin will pair Johnson with Mickelson. Regardless of who Johnson is with, he'll be impossible to ignore.