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Dustin Johnson has the 2020 Masters green jacket placed on him by 2019 champion Tiger Woods © GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP Patrick Smith

Golf

Johnson breaks a curse, Im on the rise: golf talking points

HONG KONG, China, Nov 17 – Masters records, emerging talent and the LPGA Tour’s return feature in AFP Sport’s golf talking points this week:

– Top rank, major hindrance –

Dustin Johnson secured his second major with a record-breaking 20-under-par total at the Masters, also breaking a cursed run for world number ones in majors.

Incredibly, Johnson was the first world number one to win any major since Rory McIlroy’s victory at the US PGA Championship in 2014.

He was also the first player who was top of the rankings to win the Masters since Tiger Woods in 2002.

Dustin Johnson holds the Masters Trophy after his record-breaking 20-under par victory total at Augusta © GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP / Rob Carr

In fact, down the years being world number one has been almost a disadvantage in majors.

Johnson is only the fifth player since the world rankings began in 1986 to win a major while on top, joining Ian Woosnam, Fred Couples, Woods and McIlroy.

But while Woods managed it as number one for 11 of his 15 major victories, the others have only done it once each.

That means just 15 majors out of 139 since the rankings began have seen the world number one lift the trophy. And just four out of 128 if your name doesn’t happen to be Tiger Woods.

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– Im makes Asian history –

Im Sung-jae at just 22 years old crowned a remarkable debut at Augusta National with Asia’s best finish in the US Masters, as the South Korean finished joint runner-up alongside Australia’s Cameron Smith.

Masters best: South Korea’s Im Sung-jae recorded the highest finish by an Asian golfer in Masters history with his tied second behind Dustin Johnson © GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP / Rob Carr

Im, the 2019 US PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, eclipsed countryman KJ Choi’s third place in 2004 after closing with a final round of three-under-par 69 to finish 15-under, five strokes behind winner Dustin Johnson.

Im, who won The Honda Classic for his first PGA Tour victory in March, now has his sights set on becoming Asia’s second major winner, after South Korea’s YE Yang who lifted the US PGA Championship in 2009. Yang’s best finish in the Masters was tied eighth in 2010.

“Finishing tied for second is unbelievable, and I’m proud of my game,” said Im, who has broken into the world’s top 20 for the first time.

He also joined some illustrious company in becoming the third-youngest player in history, after Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods, to finish in the top five at the Masters.

– LPGA back to the future –

If you thought that was it for majors in 2020 once Johnson had slipped on his green jacket, then think again. The Women’s US Open is still to come on December 10 at the Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas.

Back in action: World number one Ko Jin-young returns to the LPGA Tour this week for the first time in 2020 after riding out the pandemic in South Korea © AFP / Ben STANSALL

Ahead of that the US LPGA Tour swings back into action this week after a break of almost a month with the inaugural Pelican Championship at Belleair in Tampa, Florida, marking a return to the area where the elite women’s tour all began 70 years ago.

The first ever LPGA event was played in Tampa in January 1950, but the tour hasn’t been back since the St. Petersburg Women’s Open was played there in 1989.

On its return to its birthplace, world number one Ko Jin-young will finally be making her 2020 LPGA debut in a Covid-wracked year, having chosen to remain in South Korea and play the domestic KLPGA Tour during the pandemic.

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Ko will be welcomed back by a field that is one of the year’s strongest outside a major with other top 10 stars Kim Sei-young, Nelly Korda, Danielle Kang, Nasa Hataoka, Brooke Henderson, Minjee Lee and Park Sung-hyun all teeing up.

– World rankings –

Top 10s, week beginning November 16, 2020:

Men

1. Dustin Johnson (USA) 12.76

2. Jon Rahm (ESP) 10.29

3. Justin Thomas (USA) 9.48

4. Rory McIlroy (NIR) 7.53 (+1)

5. Collin Morikawa (USA) 7.42 (-1)

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6. Webb Simpson (USA) 7.31 (+1)

7. Bryson DeChambeau (USA) 7.28 (-1)

8. Xander Schauffele (USA) 7.16

9. Patrick Cantlay (USA) 6.36 (+1)

10. Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 6.22 (-1)

Selected:

18. Im Sung-jae (KOR) 4.44 (+7)

27. Cameron Smith (AUS) 3.43 (+18)

Women

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1. Ko Jin-young (KOR) 7.90

2. Kim Sei-young (KOR) 6.87

3. Nelly Korda (USA) 6.59

4. Danielle Kang (USA) 6.40

5. Park In-bee (KOR) 6.18

6. Nasa Hataoka (JPN) 5.80

7. Brooke Henderson (CAN) 5.77

8. Minjee Lee (AUS) 5.28

9. Park Sung-hyun (KOR) 5.23

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10. Kim Hyo-joo (KOR) 4.90

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