Defending champ Dustin Johnson stands atop golf word at Riviera – Orange County Register

PACIFIC PALISADES >> Dustin Johnson’s Riviera-to-Riviera run as the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Rankings didn’t come without one major pratfall.

From the time he sloshed his way to a rain-impaired win in the 2017 Genesis Open last February to climb atop the computer-generated list from No. 3, to where he is today as a favorite to defend the title as well as keep that top-dog status, the only real misstep Johnson made over the last 12 months was poorly navigating a flight of stairs at an Augusta rental house the day before the Masters last April.

Johnson’s back took the brunt of the injury – he initially thought he broke it. After a month of rest, missing the cut at the U.S. Open in June, and gutting out eight more events at less than 100 percent, he somehow kept his first-class status.

Rankings aside, his concern was it could have been much worse.

“It wasn’t just my back – both of my elbows hurt,” said the 6-foot-4, 190-pounder from South Carolina. “Thank God, I didn’t break my back. Definitely, it was severe pain.

“I got an MRI that showed it was just badly bruised, no structural problems, and I knew it just took time. Continuing to play didn’t help it heal quickly, so I kept working through it.”

Johnson’s five-stroke win last year during the 36-hole Sunday final was the  greatest margin of victory in this L.A. Tour stop since 1986. The 17-under score was the best recorded in 13 years.

If Johnson goes back-to-back at Riviera, questions about the back issues probably won’t even come up. It’s somewhat obvious he’s returned to top-launching form after four events this 2017-18 PGA Tour season, where he has already claimed one title (the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua in Maui), two ties for second (last week at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am, after having a share of the lead going into the final round, and at the World Golf Championship HSBC event in Shanghai, China), and a tie for 14th (at Tiger Woods’ Hero…

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