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Johnson puts No. 1 rank on line at Players

The Associated Press

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson hits a shot during the Masters in Augusta, Ga., in April.

The Associated Press PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The No. 1 ranking that Dustin Johnson has held for the last 15 months has never been more in jeopardy.

Four players behind him — Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose — have a mathematical chance this week at The Players Championship to replace Johnson atop the world ranking.

Spieth didn’t even know it.

“Am I one of them?” he asked Tuesday. “Sweet.”

He didn’t know because he didn’t particularly care. He reached No. 1 for the first time with his runner-up finish in the 2015 PGA Championship, and he returned to the top on three more occasions for a total of 26 weeks.

Spieth cares more about winning The Players Championship than any ramifications.

“It was never a goal of mine to hold it a certain length of time,” Spieth said. “It’s almost like a feat, like winning a major. But now it’s more like ... if I remained No. 2 and won majors, and was No. 1 for a long time and won six, I’d take the first one.”

Thomas will be getting his fourth crack at trying to reach No. 1. He needed only 12th place alone last week at Quail Hollow (he tied for 21st). He’s so close to Johnson now that he can miss the cut and still get to No. 1.

As for Johnson? He might have it tough.

He might need to finish in the top 10 to avoid losing the ranking he first reached by winning at Riviera in February 2017. The only problem there is that Johnson, for all his ability, has never finished better than 12th at The Players.

“I don’t want to lose it,” Johnson said. “So if I want to keep it, I have to play well.”

Only three other players — Tiger Woods, Greg Norman and Nick Faldo — have been at the top longer than his current stay.

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