Dustin Johnson only started believing he could become the top-ranked player in the world when injury curtailed Tiger Woods' time at the top of the sport.
Fourteen-time major winner Woods' ranking stands at 775 following a three-year period marred by back problems — an issue that has forced him out of this week's Masters.
Johnson climbed to the top of the world rankings earlier this year following a stellar 2016 season in which he won the U.S. Open, and the American has triumphed in his last three tournament appearances this year.
But asked when he truly believed the prospect of reaching the rankings summit could become a reality, Johnson quipped: "When Tiger stopped playing!"
"I mean, I don't know," he continued Tuesday at a news conference. "Past couple of years, I think I've been in the top 10 for a while. I knew it was definitely a possibility, but I was going to have to get better.
"Obviously, over the last year or so, I've gotten … I feel like my game's gotten a lot better. But I always believed that I could get there."
Johnson's form makes him a favorite for victory at Augusta National, where he finished a career-best tied for fourth last year, but the 32-year-old was quick to play down expectations.
"Golf is a funny game," he said. "It doesn't matter how good you're playing, you can still not win. The same goes for this week. If I want to win here, everything's going to have to go well for me. Everything's going to have to be really good. I've got a lot of confidence in my game right now, especially with the way I've been playing the last few tournaments, but anything can happen. I mean, if you want to win around here, you're going to have to putt it well. That's something that I feel like if I putt very well, I'm going to have a chance to win on Sunday.
"I've always liked the course since I came. I always thought it suited my game very well. It's a tough golf course everything in your bag needs to be working for you to play well around here. You know, the last couple of years, I've done a little bit better and I feel like I've had a chance. Obviously I'm playing well coming into this week, so hopefully I can continue that success and I'm looking forward to giving myself a chance to win on Sunday."
Johnson has been grouped with Bubba Watson and Jimmy Walker for the first two rounds.