Masters Win Still a Thrill for Johnson

By Associated PressApril 8, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Everyone in the Johnson family was out of sorts.
 
Zach Johnson had a headache. His wife wasnt feeling well. Their little boy was fussy, and he was wearing as many strawberries as he was eating.
 
Then they pulled into Augusta National, and the mood instantly brightened.
 
It was like the clouds parted and here comes the sunshine, Johnson said Tuesday. Felt pretty good. Just the old vibes, the old memories, the feelings. Its just great to have.
 
Being the Masters champion feels just as good now as it did when he was putting on that green jacket for the first time a year ago.
 
And yes, its all still a little surreal.
 
Johnsons victory last year was, suffice it to say, one of the more unlikely at the Masters. Sure, he had won on the PGA TOUR before, and he was good enough to be on the Ryder Cup team in 2006. But he wasnt one of those up-and-coming phenoms whose game demands attention. Hes not the best putter on TOUR, doesnt have the most impressive short game and hes certainly not the longest hitter around.
 
He didnt go for a single par-5 last year. In any round. That kind of low-risk, low-reward strategy will usually get you invited back to this tournament, but not as its defending champion.
 
Throw in the fact Tiger Woods was making a charge Sunday afternoon, and Zach Johnson, Masters champion took more than a few people by surprise.
 
I always felt I could win a major, but not this one last year because in the practice rounds it was playing so long, Johnson said. But then the wind picked up, and things changed.
 
Now its his entire life thats changed.
 
Winning a major validates a players career. No matter what else he does, hell always have that one title that matters more than the others.
 
Winning the Masters goes even beyond that. Its widely considered the most special of the majors, played every year at a most special course. Even folks who dont follow golf know all about Augusta National and green jackets and Magnolia Lane.
 
Johnson found himself joking with David Letterman in the days after his win. When he went back to Iowa, he got a reception fit for a king'The King, at least. Everywhere he goes now, hes introduced as Zach Johnson, Masters champion.
 
It hits you about two weeks to a month after, and after that it hits you periodically, Johnson said. Every now and then, you wake up and you go into your closet and, `Oh yeah, I forgot about that one.
 
Not that he could forget this week. As the defending champion, his name and face are everywhere. Hes got his very own spot in the champions locker room' with a permanent brass nameplate'just like Woods, Phil Mickelson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Hes got a prime tee time Thursday, two groups after Fred Couples and two in front of Woods.
 
And then theres the Champions Dinner on Tuesday night.
 
Tonight is going to be a complete honor, and Im just going to be a sponge, Johnson said. Im going to be a fly on the wall just soaking it in, listening in, listening to some stories because thats what I hear its all about. And eat some good food, I hope.
 
Being from Iowa, steak is on the menu. Shrimp, too, in a nod to his wifes hometown of Amelia Island, Fla.
 
And, of course, corn.
 
I think weve got a corn casserole, if Im not mistaken, he said. Or corn pudding.
 
All the trappings aside, Johnson knows he cant spend the entire week reliving last years tournament. This is still a work trip, after all.
 
I dont want to dwell on last year, but theres a lot of positives that I can take away from it and certainly implement, Johnson said. I can win here. Thats a good thing.
 
Despite his green jacket, Johnson still hasnt achieved heavyweight status. Even the label on the bin for transcripts from his news conference Tuesday had Zack Johnson.
 
Its not that hes a one-hit wonder. Far from it. A month after his win at Augusta, he proved it was no fluke with a victory at the AT&T Classic. He tied for second at the Tour Championship, shooting a 60 in the third round. Hes made the cut in all eight events hes played this year, with his best finish a tie for ninth at the CA Championship.
 
But his game is still as low-key and unassuming as Johnson himself.
 
I feel like I can win more majors, theres no question, he said. Im not going to go into any major saying, `I need to win, or `I should win. Im going to go into majors looking for opportunities, thats all it is. I want to be in contention. I want to have opportunities to get in contention.
 
And if other people still need some convincing, thats their problem.
 
I won a major in Tigers era, Johnson said. They can say what they want.
 
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  • Full Coverage - The Masters
  • If Park is nervous, she sure doesn't show it

    By Randall MellNovember 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    NAPLES, Fla. – Sung Hyun Park says she can feel her heart pounding every time she steps to the first tee.

    She says she always gets nervous starting a round.

    You don’t believe it, though.

    She looks like she would be comfortable directing a sky full of Boeing 737s as an air traffic controller at Incheon International Airport . . .

    Or talking people off the ledges of skyscrapers . . .

    Or disarming ticking bombs . . .

    “In terms of golf, I always get nervous,” she insists.

    Everything about Park was at odds with that admission Friday, after she took control halfway through the CME Group Tour Championship.

    Her Korean nickname is “Dan Gong,” which means “Shut up and attack.” Now that sounds right. That’s what she looks like she is doing, trying to run roughshod through the Tour Championship in a historic sweep of all the LPGA’s most important awards and honors.

    Park got just one look at Tiburon Golf Club before this championship began, playing in Wednesday’s pro-am. Then she marched out Thursday and shot 67, then came out Friday and shot 65.

    At 12 under overall, Park has a three-shot lead on Caroline Masson and Sarah Jane Smith.

    She is six shots up on Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Globe point standings in the race for the $1 million jackpot.

    She is 11 shots up on world No. 1 Shanshan Feng.

    And 11 shots up on So Yeon Ryu, who leads the Rolex Player of the Year point standings.


    CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship


    There’s a long way to go, but Park is in position to make an epic sweep, to win the Tour Championship, that CME Globe jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, the Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, the Vare Trophy for low scoring average, the LPGA money-winning title and the Rolex world No. 1 ranking.

    Nobody’s ever dominated a weekend like that in women’s golf.

    It’s all there for the taking now, if Park can keep this going.

    Park has another nickname back in South Korea. Her fans call her “Namdalla.” That means “I am different.” She’ll prove that if she owns this weekend.

    Park, 24, isn’t assuming anything. She’s humbly aware how much talent is flooding the LPGA, how the tour’s depth was underscored in a year where five different players have reigned as world No. 1, five different players won majors and 22 different winners stepped forward in 32 events.

    “I don’t think it’s quite that far a lead,” Park said of her three-shot advantage. “Two, three shots can change at any moment.”

    About those nerves that Park insists plague her, even Hall of Famer Judy Rankin can’t see it.

    Not when Park unsheathes a driver on a tee box.

    “She’s the most fearless driver of the ball out here,” Rankin said. “I would put Lexi a close second and everybody else a distant third. She hits drivers on holes where you shouldn’t, and she hits it long and she just throws it right down there between hazard stakes that are 10 yards apart, like it’s nothing. Now, that’s a little hyperbole, but she will hit driver almost everywhere.”

    David Jones, Park’s caddie, will attest to that. He was on Park’s bag when she won the U.S. Women’s Open in July and won the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open in August.

    “She reaches for driver a lot because she is a good driver,” Jones said. “She isn’t reckless. She’s as accurate with a driver as she is a 3-wood.”

    Park and Thompson played together in the first round. Park is eighth on tour in driving distance, averaging 270 yards per drive, and Thompson is third, averaging 274.

    Thompson loves to hit driver, too, but . . . 

    “Lexi hit a lot of 3-woods compared to us when we played together yesterday,” Jones said.

    Jones doesn’t find himself talking Park out of hitting driver much.

    “It’s really simple,” Jones said. “When you hit driver as straight as she does, why mess around?”

    Count Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee, a student of the swing, among admirers of Park’s abilities.

    “No other swing in the game comes close to her technical perfection and elegance in my opinion,” Chamblee tweeted Friday.

    Come Sunday, Park hopes to complete a perfect sweep of the LPGA’s most important awards.

    National champion Sooners meet with Trump in D.C.

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 17, 2017, 11:10 pm

    The national champion Oklahoma men's golf team visited Washington D.C. on Frday and met with President Donald Trump.

    Oklahoma topped Oregon, 3 1/2 to 1 1/2, in last year's national final at Rich Harvest Farms to win their second national championship and first since 1989.

    These pictures from the team's trip to Washington popped up on social media late Friday afternoon:

    Rookie Cook (66-62) credits prior Tour experience

    By Rex HoggardNovember 17, 2017, 10:36 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Austin Cook is a rookie only on paper. At least, that’s the way he’s played since joining the circuit this season.

    This week’s RSM Classic is Cook’s fourth start on Tour, and rounds of 66-62 secured his fourth made cut of the young season. More importantly, his 14-under total moved him into the lead at Sea Island Resort.

    “I really think that a couple years ago, the experience that I have had, I think I've played maybe 10 events, nine events before this season,” Cook said. “Being in contention a few times and making cuts, having my card has really prepared me for this.”


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    Cook has been perfect this week at the RSM Classic and moved into contention with four consecutive birdies starting at No. 13 (he began his round on the 10th hole of the Seaside course). A 6-footer for birdie at the last moved him one stroke clear of Brian Gay.

    In fact, Cook hasn’t come close to making a bogey this week thanks to an equally flawless ball-striking round that moved him to first in the field in strokes gained: tee to green.

    If Cook has played like a veteran this week, a portion of that credit goes to long-time Tour caddie Kip Henley, who began working for Cook during this year’s Web.com Tour finals.

    “He’s got a great golf brain,” Henley said. “That’s the most flawless round of golf I’ve ever seen.”

    Cook fires 62 for one-shot lead at RSM Classic

    By Associated PressNovember 17, 2017, 10:26 pm

    ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook made a 6-foot birdie putt on his final hole for an 8-under 62 and a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.

    Cook has gone 36 holes without a bogey on the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island Golf Club. He played Seaside - the site of the final two rounds in the last PGA Tour event of the calendar year - on Friday and ran off four straight birdies on his opening nine holes.

    ''We've just been able to it hit the ball really well,'' Cook said. ''Speed on greens has been really good and getting up-and-down has been great. I've been able to hit it pretty close to the hole to make some pretty stress-free putts. But the couple putts that I have had of some length for par, I've been able to roll them in. Everything's going well.''

    The 26-year-old former Arkansas player was at 14-under 128 and had a one-stroke lead over Brian Gay, who shot 64 on Seaside. No one else was closer than five shots going into the final two rounds.

    The 45-year-old Gay won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2013.


    RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    Full-field scores from the RSM Classic


    ''I've hit a lot of greens and fairways,'' Gay said. ''I've hit the ball, kept it in front of me. There's a lot of trouble out here, especially with the wind blowing, so I haven't had to make too many saves the first couple days and I putted well.''

    Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. He earned his PGA Tour card through the Web.com Tour, and has hired Gay's former caddie, Kip Henley.

    ''With him being out here so long, he knows everybody, so it's not like I'm completely the new kid on the block,'' Cook said. ''He's introduced me to a lot of people, so it's just making me feel comfortable out here. He knows his way around these golf courses. We're working really well together.''

    First-round leader Chris Kirk followed his opening 63 on the Plantation with a 70 on the Seaside to drop into a tie for third at 9 under with C.T. Pan (65) and Vaughn Taylor (66).

    Brandt Snedeker is looking strong in his first start in some five months because of a sternum injury. Snedeker shot a 67 on the Plantation course and was six shots back at 8 under.

    ''I was hitting the ball really well coming down here,'' Snedeker said. ''I was anxious to see how I would hold up under pressure. I haven't played a tournament in five months, so it's held up better than I thought it would. Ball-striking's been really good, mental capacity's been unbelievable.

    ''I think being so fresh, excited to be out there and thinking clearly. My short game, which has always been a strength of mine, I didn't know how sharp it was going to be. It's been really good so far.''