DJ to top charts

  • By: Ben Coley
  • Last Updated: January 1 2013, 15:03 GMT

As touched upon in my preview of the Race To Dubai, finding the winner of the money list on either side of the Atlantic requires one to find a player capable of performing on the biggest stage.

Johnson (right) has what it takes to serve it up to McIlroy

But it must be noted that, prior to Rory McIlroy's success this year, Luke Donald and Matt Kuchar had topped the PGA Tour standings without winning either a WGC or a major title and neither did the their nearest pursuers.

That being said, a McIlroy-Tiger Woods one-two in 2012 spells danger for the rest, and given that they represent over 40 per cent of the book it's clear that they're expected to dominate the standings.

The question is, can we get them beaten? I think the answer is yes, and I say so primarily because of the major venues that lie in wait.

Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania hosts the US Open and it's a venue than plays less than 7,000 yards and to a par of 70. That may suit Woods more so than in years gone by, but on paper at least it's a venue that won't play to the strengths of McIlroy.

The same can be said of Muirfield, host course for the 2013 Open Championship where Ernie Els will defend his title as a previous course winner. When he did that in 2002, Woods shot 81 in round three and finished 28th.

And Oak Hill Country Club, site of the PGA Championship, hardly holds positive memories for Woods, either. He was 39th there in 2003 when Shaun Micheel topped a leaderboard of short, straight hitters. Again, on paper this isn't a venue which works for Rory on paper.

This isn't for a second to say that neither Woods nor McIlroy can win at these courses, and of course we know they can score at Augusta. However, it does give us a solid platform from which to take them on because if they do fail to compete in the majors, they'll need to win consistently elsewhere to top the earnings charts.

The search for value elsewhere has to be limited to winners, as in the last five seasons only Kuchar has managed to place - he in fact topped the standings - with a solitary win on his record, and he did so with a sum of money which wouldn't ordinarily see a player hit the frame and indeed wouldn't have topped any PGA Tour Money List this side of 1998.

So, looking at the major venues and finding a player who can win twice or more leads me directly to Dustin Johnson, who has the talent to challenge the perceived Woods-McIlroy dominance.

With six PGA Tour wins on the CV - two of them in lucrative FedEx Cup Playoff events - and five top-10 finishes in majors, the next step in the career of Johnson is to win a WGC or a major, and I for one am convinced he's good enough to do so in 2013.

After all, he's the first player since Woods to go directly from college and win in each of his first five seasons on Tour, and despite being one of the biggest hitters around he's taken his game to a variety of tracks.

He's won in Illinois, California, New Jersey, Tennessee and New York, the latter where Oak Hill can be found, and he's done so on technical par 70s, par 71s and expansive par 72s too, which speaks to the quality of his all-round game and his ability to take it anywhere.

Three of his titles have come with a winning score of less than 10-under more, a fascinating fact considering how few events are won with such a score, and that bodes well for his chances of winning majors at courses like Merion and Oak Hill.

Indeed, Johnson has also finished in the top 10 on both his last visits to the Open Championship so he has the skills to challenge in all four majors. Furthermore, he's been second at Doral and has a solid record at Firestone, while 2012 saw him produce his best results yet in the WGC-Accenture World Match Play. He can win any one of these events.

Some suggest he's not consistent but that simply isn't true; Johnson missed just one cut in 2012 and it came in the US Open a week after he'd won the FedEx St. Jude Classic having previously been out with an injury.

DJ can also take heart from the fact that he was one of few Americans to produce the goods on the final day of the Ryder Cup and I really fancy him to have a huge 2013 now that he can start it free from injury.

In 2012 Johnson finished 19th despite having big fitness issues throughout the first six months of the season but having been fifth in 2011 and fourth in 2010 there's every reason to expect him to contend at a time when he should be nearing his peak.

Johnson is very much my strongest fancy and sifting through the rest isn't easy, but I can't for the life of me understand what Brandt Snedeker is doing at 50/1.

Snedeker finished third in the Money List standings this year and has now won three titles in just over 18 months, the most recent of which coming in the TOUR Championship, a victory which secured the FedEx Cup bonus and showed that he can compete at the very highest level.

This should come as no surprise, as Snedeker was the 2007 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year and followed that up with a share of third in the 2008 Masters to demonstrate that he had a massive future.

As one of the world's best putters and an excellent player of par-fives, a fine exponent of the wedge and a streaky scorer, all that's really been missing is the belief to contend and indeed win at the highest level, but the more he's put himself in the mix, the better he's handled the situation.

When he led the Open Championship at halfway in the summer very few of us expected him to hang on, but while we were right, surely it was that experience which enabled him to produce the goods in the TOUR Championship and make a very strong debut in the Ryder Cup.

His third-round 60 in the WGC-HSBC Champions was further proof that he is now comfortable at the top and having already finished in the top 20 of all four majors, his game can't be questioned.

What's more, his one weakness is a lack of length from the tee but that shouldn't be an issue at Merion, Oak Hill nor Muirfield, and his short game means he's obviously a contender at Augusta. Now he's a winner of the TOUR Championship, who's to say he can't add a major or a WGC to his collection?

There is a school of thought - one backed up by facts - that FedEx Cup winners can suffer a hangover the following year, but down-to-earth Snedeker is capable of coping with the extra expectation and there's just no way he's a 50/1 chance if he can continue what's been a steep upward curve of late.

Finally, I think Hunter Mahan has been written off all too quickly and he completes my three at 66/1.

Mahan's 2012 was very much a tale of two halves, with a pair of early-season wins including victory over McIlroy in the WGC-Accenture World Match Play final looking certain to secure his place on the Ryder Cup team, only for a late-season slump to see him narrowly miss out.

But a share of eighth in the TOUR Championship should serve as a reminder that Mahan is not to be ignored and he'll be eager to prove a point having been left out of Davis Love III's Medinah team.

Remember, he's a five-time PGA Tour winner and two of those victories have come in World Golf Championship events. He's got a total of 11 top-20 finishes in just 28 major starts and is developing a really solid record at Augusta and in the US Open, which means he could be right in the mix in the early part of the season just as he was earlier this year.

When he's on-song, I don't think there are many better ball-strikers on the planet than Mahan so it stands to reason that his game is one that can produce on any track, which helps to explain why he has such a solid major record.

Mahan's recent Money List record reads 15-10-16-9 and not much more is needed for him to take a further step forward and break into the top five, so at 66/1 chance this supremely talented player with a point to prove.

  • Preview posted at 1430 GMT on 27/11/2012.