Johnson shows grit and determination go a long way

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2009, 5:00 pm
2007 Sony OpenHONOLULU ' Zach Johnson had to defend himself, a peculiar position for a guy who had just finished a two-week stay in Hawaii by playing his final six rounds in 30 under par and winning the Sony Open for the fifth victory of his career.
 
No one questions the caliber of his golf.
 
It was his height, which the PGA Tour media guide lists as 5-foot-11.
 
Thats about right, Johnson said, feigning surprise when he heard laughter. OK, 5-10 ' maybe 5-10 1/2 . You dont think Im 5-11?
 
Whatever the actual measurement, he always seems to play a few inches taller.
 
Sunday was yet another example. Tied for the lead with David Toms as he made the turn, Johnson seized control of the Sony Open with a 5-iron into 4 feet on the 11th to take the lead for good, a 7-iron to 8 feet on the 14th for another birdie, then two flawless swings on the closing hole to reach the par 5 in two and secure the fifth victory of his career.
 
Five victories, including the 2007 Masters when he held off a charge from Tiger Woods, might not seem a lot to some. But remember, Johnson didnt attend college at a golf factory. He went to Drake. And when he graduated, he toiled for six years on some tours that no longer exist until he finally made it to the big leagues.
 
He was asked what he would have said had someone told him when he left college he would have five PGA Tour victories and a major.
 
What are you on? Johnson said to more laughter.
 
I was very raw, he said. Always a decent putter, but I was never very consistent with any part of my game. If someone would have said that, I would have said I wouldnt have believed them. Theres no way I would have believed them.
 
Does that make him an overachiever?
 
Yes, and hes proud of it.
 
Thats my upbringing, Johnson said.
 
He isnt the only one who has overachieved from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
 
On Sunday, Johnson wasnt even the biggest overachiever from his own high school.
 
He was four years behind quarterback Kurt Warner, who led the Arizona Cardinals to their first Super Bowl just about the time Johnson was teeing off with a one-shot lead at the Sony Open.
 
A good day for Iowa, Johnson said.
 
Someone reminded him that Warner took more hits Sunday than Johnson, and the golfer replied that Warner was bigger.
 
Theres that word again.
 
Johnson says he is 170 pounds ' about 10 pounds more than he would like ' but you have to wonder how much of that is heart. Thats what it takes to roam the country on circuits called the Prairie Tour, the Teardrop Tour, the Dakotas Tour, and to such remote towns that it would be easy to quit.
 
He not only persevered, he has played in the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup, and has earned over $13 million in the last five years.
 
Hes a good player, and tough to beat, said Toms, who did everything he could to chase him down and still finished two shots behind at the Sony Open, along with Adam Scott.
 
Maybe it was just a coincidence, but Johnson had dinner Saturday night with Corey Pavin, the next U.S. Ryder Cup captain. Pavin for years was known as the gritty little Bruin from his days at UCLA, and there are some similarities.
 
Neither will ever be mistaken for a power player. Pavin is listed as 5-foot-9 ' thats debatable, too ' but managed to scratch out 15 wins, a U.S. Open title and appearances on three Ryder Cup teams during the era of Greg Norman, Nick Faldo and Nick Price.
 
I am not Corey Pavin ' far from it, especially when youre talking about a resume, Johnson said. However, maybe some parallels are there as far as our stature, and certainly how we play the game and how we compete. I dont know what sets me apart at times, but competition is what drives me.
 
It really doesnt matter what it is, he said. I want to win.
 
Johnson struggled last year to live up to his status as a Masters champion, which is not usual. He didnt make it out of the first round of the FedEx Cup playoffs, and there was some question whether he would finish in the top 125 on the money list. But the forced break in September allowed him to evaluate where he was going, and he wound up winning the Texas Open a few weeks later.
 
In some respects, his 2009 season started toward the end of 2008.
 
With those two victories, coming six tournaments apart, he now has won in each of the last three years. That doesnt put him in the same league as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh, but its more than he would have believed.
 
Obviously, this one is sweet ' the sweetest one Ive had because its right now, Johnson said. I think this game is getting hard and harder as far as talent, and it just makes me want to work harder. Im going to make it hard, and Im going to work hard at it, and Im going to practice.
 
Where does that put him? Johnson would rather others make that call.
 
I just know that my game is going the right way, he said, and Im excited about the future.
 
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  • Rahm, Koepka both jump in OWGR after wins

    By Will GrayNovember 20, 2017, 1:19 pm

    Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka both made moves inside the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings following wins in Dubai and Japan, respectively.

    Rahm captured the European Tour season finale, winning the DP World Tour Championship by a shot. It was his third worldwide victory of 2017 and it allowed the Spaniard to overtake Hideki Matsuyama at world No. 4. It also establishes a new career high in the rankings for Rahm, who started the year ranked No. 137.

    Koepka cruised to a nine-shot victory while successfully defending his title at the Japan Tour's Dunlop Phoenix. The victory was his first since winning the U.S. Open and it helped Koepka jump three spots to No. 7 in the latest rankings. Reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele, who finished second behind Koepka in Japan, went from 30th to 24th.

    After earning his maiden PGA Tour victory at the RSM Classic, Austin Cook vaulted from No. 302 to No. 144 in the world. Runner-up J.J. Spaun jumped 48 spots to No. 116, while a hole-out with his final approach helped Brian Gay rise 73 spots to No. 191 after finishing alone in third at Sea Island.

    Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas with Rahm and Matsuyama now rounding out the top five. Justin Rose remains at No. 6, followed by Koepka, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson. Rory McIlroy slid two spots to No. 10 and is now in danger of falling out of the top 10 for the first time since May 2014.

    With his return to competition now less than two weeks away, Tiger Woods fell four more spots to No. 1193 in the latest rankings.

    Love to undergo hip replacement surgery

    By Rex HoggardNovember 20, 2017, 1:08 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Two days removed from arguably the most hectic week of his year, Davis Love III will undergo replacement surgery on his left hip.

    Love, who hosted and played in last week’s RSM Classic, said he tried to avoid the surgery, but the pain became too much and he will undergo the procedure on Tuesday at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Birmingham, Ala.

    “I had a hip problem the last few years, and I had a hip resurfacing trying to avoid hip surgery because I’m a chicken, but after playing [the CIMB Classic and Sanderson Farms Championship] I realized it was an uphill battle,” Love said.


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    Love said doctors have told him recovery from the procedure will take between three to four months, but he should be able to start work on his chipping and putting within a few weeks.

    Love, who missed the cut at the RSM Classic, said earlier in the week that his goal is to become the oldest PGA Tour winner and that the only way to achieve that was by having the surgery.

    “Now I’m excited that I’ve crossed that bridge,” said Love, who will turn 54 next April. “Once I get over that I can go right back to the Tour. I won after a spine fusion [2015 Wyndham Championship] and now I’d like to win with a new hip. That’s the reason I’m doing it so I can get back to golf and keep up.”

    LPGA awards: Ryu, S.H. Park tie for POY

    By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:56 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – In the end, the CME Group Tour Championship played out a lot like the entire 2017 season did.

    Parity reigned.

    Nobody dominated the game’s big season-ending awards, though Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park came close.

    Thompson walked away with the CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot and the Vare Trophy for low scoring average. If she had made that last 2-foot putt at the 72nd hole Sunday, she might also have walked away with the Rolex Player of the Year Award and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Park shared the Rolex Player of the Year Award with So Yeon Ryu. By doing so, Park joined Nancy Lopez as the only players in LPGA history to win the Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year titles in the same season. Lopez did it in 1978. Park also won the LPGA money-winning title.

    Here’s a summary of the big prizes:

    Rolex Player of the Year
    Ryu and Park both ended up with 162 points in the points-based competition. Park started the week five points behind Ryu but made the up the difference with the five points she won for tying for sixth.

    It marks the first time the award has been shared since its inception in 1966.

    Ryu and Park join Inbee Park as the only South Koreans to win the award. Park won it in 2013.


    Vare Trophy
    Thompson won the award with a scoring average of 69.114. Sung Hyun Park finished second at 69.247. Park needed to finish at least nine shots ahead of Thompson at the CME Group Tour Championship to win the trophy.

    There were a record 12 players with scoring averages under 70.0 this year, besting the previous record of five, set last year.


    CME Globe $1 million prize
    Thompson entered the week first in the CME points reset, but it played out as a two-woman race on the final day. Park needed to finish ahead of Thompson in the CME Group Tour Championship to overtake her for the big money haul. Thompson tied for second in the tournament while Park tied for sixth.

    By winning the CME Group Tour Championship, Jutanugarn had a shot at the $1 million, but she needed Park to finish the tournament eighth or worse and Thompson to finish ninth or worse.


    LPGA money-winning title
    Park claimed the title with $2,335,883 in earnings. Ryu was second, with $1,981,593 in earnings.

    The tour saw a tour-record 17 players win $1 million or more this season, two more than did so last year.

    Ryu came into the week as the only player who could pass Park for the title, but Ryu needed to win to do so.


    Rolex world No. 1 ranking
    The top ranking was up for grabs at CME, with No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Sung Hyun Park and No. 3 So Yeon Ryu all within three hundredths of a ranking point. Even No. 4 Lexi Thompson had a chance to grab the top spot if she won, but in the end nobody could overtake Feng. Her reign will extend to a second straight week.


    Rolex Rookie of the Year
    Park ran away with the award with her U.S. Women’s Open and Canadian Pacific Women’s Open victories among her 11 top-10 finishes. She had the award locked up long before she arrived for the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship.

    Ko ends first winless season with T-16 at CME

    By Randall MellNovember 20, 2017, 1:07 am

    NAPLES, Fla. – Lydia Ko carved a hybrid 3-iron to 15 feet and ended the most intensely scrutinized year of her young career with a birdie Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship.

    “Nice to finish the season on a high note,” Ko said after posting a 3-under-par 69, good for a tie for 16th. “Obviously, not a top-10 finish, but I played really solid. I feel like I finished the season off pretty strong.”

    Ko posted two second-place finishes, a third-place finish and a tie for fifth in her last eight starts.

    “Ever since Indy [in early September], I played really good and put myself in good positions,” Ko said. “I felt like the confidence factor was definitely higher than during the middle of the year. I had some opportunities, looks for wins.”

    Sunday marked the end of Ko’s first winless season since she began playing LPGA events at 15 years old.

    Let the record show, she left with a smile, eager to travel to South Korea to spend the next month with family after playing a charity event in Bradenton, Fla., on Monday.


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    Much was made of Ko beginning the year with sweeping changes, with new equipment (PXG), a new coach (Gary Gilchrist) and a new caddie (Peter Godfrey).

    In the final summary, it wasn’t a Ko-like year, not by the crazy high standards she has set.

    She saw her run of 85 consecutive weeks at No. 1 end in June. She arrived in Naples holding on to the No. 8 ranking. She ends the year 13th on the LPGA money list with $1,177,450 in earnings. It’s the first time she hasn’t finished among the top three in money in her four full years on tour. She did log 11 top-10 finishes overall, three second-place finishes.

    How did she evaluate her season?

    “I feel like it was a better year than everyone else thinks, like `Lydia is in a slump,’” Ko said. “I feel like I played solid.

    “It's a season that, obviously, I learned a lot from ... the mental aspect of saying, `Hey, get over the bads and kind of move on.’”

    Ko said she learned a lot watching Stacy Lewis deal with her run of second-place finishes after winning so much.

    “Winning a championship is a huge deal, but, sometimes, it's overrated when you haven't won,” Ko said. “Like, you're still playing well, but just haven't won. I kind of feel like it's been that kind of year.

    “I think everybody has little ups and downs.”