Dustin Johnson: The man head and shoulders above his Masters rivals

Dustin Johnson
As well as being world number one, Johnson is also ranked first tee to green, after 15 rounds this season, with an average drive of 316.2 yards

Rarely has there been so much exciting young talent at the top of men's golf, but there is no question who stands head and shoulders above this extraordinary crop.

And this is not only because Dustin Johnson is an imposing 6ft 4 in athlete, built as much for explosive pursuits such as volleyball and basketball as he is for the modern power game of golf.

The 32-year-old from South Carolina consolidated his position as world number one with a brilliant display at the World Golf Championships in Mexico. And the most impressive aspect was that it was as much about guile and precision as his famed length and strength.

Most frightening for the other leading lights is the current absence of weaknesses in Johnson's armoury.

Last week, he beat the strongest field of the year with a relatively cold putter.

In Mexico, the US Open champion missed 16 putts from inside 10 feet on the tricky greens of the Club de Golf Chapultepec. Yet he still comfortably saw off the challenges of final-round playing partners Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas.

Johnson also showed exceptional nerve and skill to hold at bay the inspired charge of Britain's Tommy Fleetwood. The Southport man holed a monster at the last to force the eventual champion to make a par for the fourth WGC triumph of his career.

And that was no mean feat given the treacherous nature of the fairway bunker shot Johnson played on the closing hole. Here was evidence of the finesse that completes such a fearsome golfing package.

"Probably the best shot I hit all week, under the circumstances, was that second shot to 18," Johnson said.

He called it "a dink". It was a 127-yard, 54-degree wedge, hit from a wide stance outside the bunker with the ball well below his feet.

There was so much that could have gone wrong and with the tournament on the line. But Johnson made perfect contact to send his ball to 20 feet and seal the title.

"It was a fantastic shot," he acknowledged afterwards. "I'm hitting a three-quarter sand wedge which is never easy from a kind of funky stance."

Rory McIlroy playing at Club de Golf Chapultepec
The Mexico Championship is one of only two tournaments in the World Golf Championships to be held outside the United States, along with the HSBC Champions in Shanghai

Putting the 'world' back into WGC

Only Tiger Woods has won more WGC events than the current world number one.

Over the years, so many of these events have struggled to escape the sense that they are really just bog-standard PGA Tour events played on US-style layouts, but this was different. The Mexico City venue, at 7,800 feet above sea level, seemed much more international.

It put the "world" back into the WGC. With its tree-lined fairways and small greens, several players suggested it had the feel of venues you might find in continental Europe such as Crans-sur-Sierre, the home the European Masters.

So it was little surprise to see a truly international look to the leaderboard. Fleetwood, now ranked 35 in the world, backed up his Abu Dhabi triumph and effectively booked his Masters debut with a closing 66 that left him 13 under par.

A possible return to Augusta is now on the radar of fellow Englishman Ross Fisher who climbed to 55 in the rankings with a 65 that left him sharing third place with the highly rated Spanish rookie Jon Rahm.

And four rounds in the 60s helped another burgeoning European talent, Belgium's Thomas Pieters, to a share of fifth place.

But the cosmopolitan nature of this leaderboard simply adds to the lustre of Johnson's victory. He is a golfer of many dimensions, not just someone who uses teeing grounds to blast long-range missiles.

Of course, the ability to do that with alacrity is a huge weapon, especially as these drives appear laser guided in their accuracy.

Danny Willett Masters Champion 2016
Johnson will face a field of in-form young players bidding to follow last year's champion Danny Willett, by pulling on the famous Green Jacket at Augusta in April

But in Mexico, and during his victory at Riviera in his previous outing, there was also evidence of growing maturity over shot selection and the execution of those strokes.

Against the strongest fields, the American is the man setting the standards as we build towards the first major of the year.

Johnson barged opened that major door, having knocked loudly for too long, with his US Open win at Oakmont last year. The Masters is a month away and he goes there having finished fourth and sixth in his past two visits.

Winning in Mexico in March offers no guarantee of success at Augusta in April but it certainly sends a powerful signal.

It could prove an epic Masters. Again, it is by no means assured, but the form of the leading lights suggests something special at the game's most glamorous tournament.

The champion in 2015, Jordan Spieth, won last month, Rickie Fowler is fresh off his victory at PGA National, Justin Thomas has triumphed three times this season, Japan's Hideki Matsuyama has been winning for fun, and McIlroy made an encouraging return from injury in Mexico last week.

They are all young, exceptionally talented and possess shoulders fit for a Green Jacket.

And they all know who they will have to beat if they are to receive the most coveted garment in golf - Dustin Johnson, the champion in his past two outings, only once outside the top six in his past seven events and now the undisputed world number one.