Ian Baker-Finch: ‘Dustin Johnson Is The Guy To Beat’

You have to give Dustin Johnson at least some credit. The guy has endured repeated heartbreak at various majors, but he started the PGA Championship about as well as possible Thursday, shooting a 6-under-66 at Whistling Straits to snag a spot atop the leaderboard.

If that doesn’t speak to Johnson’s competitive fiber, nothing will.

“Yeah, he’s just a great athlete, resilient – kind of brings Greg Norman to mind,” CBS Sports golf analyst Ian Baker-Finch said on CBS Sports radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “(He) keeps getting up after each time he was knocked down. That’s what he’s done. He’s had a lot of chances, whether it’s been an unlucky or an unfortunate situation or whether he’s just shot himself in the foot at the wrong time, he just keeps getting up. He’s got a short memory, which is great for an athlete. I think he’s the guy to beat. He was in everyone’s top five this week. He’s been playing well. And to jump out of the box so well yesterday with a 66 and really stamp his mark on this one, it’ll be interesting to see how he goes today with that added pressure of leading. But if he doesn’t win this week, I certainly think he’ll be winning majors soon – and more than one.”

Johnson has top-six finishes at all four majors, including runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open and Open Championship. He turned 31 in June, which begs the question: Is he in his prime right now? An athlete’s prime certainly varies by sport, but what is that age for golf?

“I would say it’s mid-30s,” Baker-Finch said. “There’s a whole bunch of guys (in their) mid-30s – Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Bubba Watson – that have won one (major) or, in Sergio’s case, looking for his first. They have to now look at all these (guys in their early 20s) coming through thinking, ‘Wow, these guys, they’re going to start sharing up the majors with me? Not many majors are won post-40 years of age. I better get stuck into this right now.’ So someone like Adam Scott at 35, he has 20 more majors before he turns 40. He better get busy – because with all these kids like Jordan Spieth coming through, it’s not easy anymore. No one won majors before they were late-20s or early 30s in past years. Tiger was exceptional, of course, but now we have Rory McIlroy already with four and Jordan Spieth already with two – and he’s just turned 22. So it’s definitely getting younger. The age now, the best time to play, is probably 25 to 35, whereas in years past, I felt it was more like 30 to 40.”

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