Masters Champ Gets Back to Work

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 11, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 Verizon HeritageHILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Between chats with presidential contender Barack Obama and late-night talk show host David Letterman, Masters champion Zach Johnson barely has had time to swing a golf club since slipping on the green jacket.
 
And that's one of the biggest reasons Johnson chose to tee it up at the Verizon Heritage instead of taking a well-deserved rest.
 
Zach Johnson
Zach Johnson has already logged a lot of miles with the famed green jacket. (WireImage)
'For whatever reason, when you're inside the ropes, it kind of feels normal,' Johnson said Wednesday.
 
Very little has been normal for the unassuming Iowan since his two-stroke victory at Augusta National over Tiger Woods, Retief Goosen and Rory Sabbatini.
 
Johnson didn't leave the Augusta National grounds until 11:30 p.m. Sunday. He flew to New York the next morning for a media blitz that included ESPN, CNN, 'Live With Regis and Kelly' and 'The Late Show with David Letterman.'
 
When he's bold enough to turn his phone on, it's 'beyond crazy,' Johnson said.
 
There was the congratulatory call from his home state's chief executive, Gov. Chet Culver. Johnson also got a message from a fellow Regis High alum, former NFL MVP Kurt Warner. As much as he'd like to, Johnson hasn't had time to return the good wishes from them or anyone else.
 
'I listened to every one of them, read every one of them and appreciate all the congratulatory words and notes,' he said.
 
Johnson thought about skipping the Hilton Head tournament, which every Masters winner has done since Vijay Singh followed his Augusta National triumph with a trip to Harbour Town in 2000.
 
But Johnson didn't want to reneg on his commitment. Playing, he said, was a respite from his new-found fame.
 
'I don't particulary care for the limelight at all,' Johnson said.
 
The adulation probably won't let up for a while.
 
Fans at Wednesday's pro-am crowded around the first tee as Johnson's group stepped up. 'Please give welcome to the 2007 Masters champion, professional Zach Johnson,' the starter yelled. The fans clapped and snapped pictures.
 
'Where's the green jacket?' one fan shouted as Johnson smiled.
 
He graciously signed golf caps, posters and badges between holes. No Masters winner has paired the Heritage's tartan coat with a green jacket since Bernhard Langer in 1985.
 
The good feelings for Johnson weren't limited to those outside the ropes.
 
Five-time Heritage winner Davis Love III says Johnson's Harbour Town locker was stuffed with items for his signature or congratulatory letters.
 
Johnson's win is popular among PGA TOUR pros 'because he's a popular guy,' Love said.
 
Love has parked his motor home beside Johnson's at times and seen up close the younger player's steady, hard-working approach. 'It's nice to see that pay off,' he said.
 
Plus, 'Zach proved last week that Tiger doesn't win every time he plays,' Love said.
 
Johnson won't change his approach to the game -- or life -- no matter how the rest of the world views him. 'I wouldn't know how to change. Personally, I mean, I really wouldn't,' he said.
 
Johnson barely could sleep Sunday night -- partly because of his thrilling win and partly because he and his wife, Kim, have a 3-month-old.
 
Defending Verizon Heritage champion Aaron Baddeley, part of a weekly Bible study group that includes Johnson, doesn't expect success to spoil his level-headed friend. 'He's just as true as they come,' Baddeley said.
 
Still, Johnson has enjoyed his recent splash in the spotlight.
 
The most surreal moment, he said, came before Letterman's show Monday when Obama came to Johnson's dressing room. Obama 'introduced himself, said he was a huge fan,' Johnson gushed.
 
'Very nice man, very young,' said Johnson, who is 31.
 
Johnson's appearance on Letterman was limited to reading a top-10 list of 'Things I Can Say Now That I've Won the Masters.' One of the highlights was No. 6, 'Even I've never heard of me.'
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Verizon Heritage
  • GOLF CHANNEL Airtimes
     
    Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Getty Images

    Rahm (62) takes early lead at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

    Getty Images

    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

    Getty Images

    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

    @tommyfleetwood_1

    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

    Getty Images

    Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

    Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

    The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

    It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

    "It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

    Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

    "This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."