By Ryan Herrington
With his decision to skip this week’s Mayakoba Classic, Dustin Johnson has wrapped up his year competition-wise on the PGA Tour. And what a year it turned out to be. The 36-year-old’s coronation at the Masters earlier this month, after his FedEx Cup title in August, makes it difficult to remember there were questions at the start of 2020 about whether his career had potentially peaked. Recall that Johnson didn’t play at all in the fall of 2019 after undergoing knee surgery, and he hadn’t had a top-15 finish on tour since the previous May.
In hindsight, we now can appreciate that Johnson’s injury might better explain the fallow portion of his 2019 season and that full healthy he was ready to take the next step in his career. Consider that DJ accomplished something only five other golfers have since 1980, and his success might even look more impressive. Let’s explain …
There are many impressive stats that help provide context for how well Johnson played in PGA Tour events in 2020, but there’s one that just might top them all: percentage of potential money won. It’s a pretty straightforward metric that adds up a player's total earnings and divides that by the aggregated total of the first-place checks in all those events—in other words the total amount of money a player could have earned if he won every event he competed in.
Adding his earnings in the events he played from January to August during the 2019-’20 season (14 total, including wins at the Travelers Championship and The Northern Trust) along with his three starts in the 2020-’21 season, Johnson made $8.95 million out of a possible $25.86 million in the 2020 calendar year. That equates to a 34.63 percent of potential money won.
How good is that number? Well it’s easily the best among all players on the PGA Tour in the 2020 calendar year. Here’s how the next four players shake out (actual money earned in parenthesis):
Bryson DeChambeau: 26.96 ($7,081,362)
Jon Rahm: 25.06 ($7,263,068)
Justin Thomas: 24.05 ($6,930,686)
Webb Simpson: 20.09 ($4,990,562)
It’s also impressive when you consider that Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 in October, had to sit out two lucrative no-cut tour events, returned and then went on to win the Masters.
Looking at it from a historic standpoint, Johnson’s calendar year also becomes rather notable. Since the PGA Tour began calculating the percentage of potential money won stat in 1980, only 10 golfers on 23 occasions have won as much as 30 percent of the potential money they could have won in any individual season. They’re listed below, with Tiger Woods having accomplished the feat 11 times.
Tiger Woods: 1999 (50.54), 2000 (63.0), 2001 (38.57), 2002 (44.11), 2003 (38.95), 2005 (46.73), 2006 (58.63), 2007 (54.23), 2008 (78.25), 2009 (47.96), 2013 (38.57)
Nick Price: 1993 (31.47), 1994 (30.03)
Greg Norman: 1993 (33.02), 1995 (33.99)
Vijay Singh: 2003 (30.58), 2004 (38.44)
Rory McIlroy: 2012 (37.05), 2014 (33.33)
Lee Trevino: 1980 (31.75)
Tom Watson: 1980 (41.68)
Ernie Els: 2004 (33.63)
Jason Day: 2015 (32.78)
Jordan Spieth: 2015 (34.79)
Technically, Johnson’s 34.63 percentage is for the calendar year 2020, not for the 2019-’20 season since it also includes his starts in the fall of the 2020-’21 season. (Johnson’s official 2019-’20 season total was 28.78, just a little more than Justin Thomas’ 28.24 mark.) Still the wrap-around portion of the PGA Tour season only began in 2013-’14 season, so the calendar-year comparison holds up in almost all cases.
So, only five golfers, Woods (again on 11 occasions), Watson, Singh, McIlroy and Spieth have had had runs better than DJ’s 2020. Not bad company to hang with.