ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – In two starts at St. Andrews in the Open Championship Zach Johnson has missed the cut (2005) and finished tied for 76th, which wouldn’t exactly lead to high expectations for this week.
Despite that track record, and increasingly difficult conditions as the day progressed at the Old Course on Thursday, Johnson opened with a 6-under 66 to post the best score of the later starters for a share of second place one shot behind Dustin Johnson.
“I think there was a time when I thought you had to kill it. You had to hit it 290 [yards] in the air and hit it left essentially every hole,” Johnson said. “Granted, that still holds true to a degree. But I had a lot of loft [shorter clubs] in my hands, especially on the holes that have some sort of help.”
Johnson said he didn’t have more than an 8-iron into any of the first 11 holes and played a 5-iron for his second shot into the par-5 fifth hole, which is a boost for a player that ranks 166th on the PGA Tour in driving distance.
“That's kind of fun for Zach Johnson,” he smiled.
Johnson, who is fresh off his best finish this season (T-3 at the John Deere Classic), has two top-10 finishes at the Open (2012 and 2013) and said he has learned to embrace links golf and that he doesn’t “have to be perfect.”