Johnson Proves Its Not All About Power
'I would like to know my stats as far as shortest drive,' said Zach Johnson, who was told that no research had been done on that particular number.
'Thank you. I appreciate that,' replied Johnson, whose driving distance averaged a not-so-impressive 280.4 yards this year, a number that left him 169th on TOUR in that category.
On the flip side, he hit 73.05% of fairways, which left him eighth among his peers, and his 69.91 scoring average was 16th-best. Johnson also averaged 28.71 putts per round, good for 22nd place, shattering the popular myth that power drives are the only important ingredient in a successful season.
When you record a 60 for the lowest round of the season at the TOUR Championship, it can be considered a successful year. When you finish seventh in FedExCup regular season points, it's a good season.
The most obvious sign, however, is when you can include the Masters as one of your two wins, the other being the AT&T Classic in May.
If bling's the thing, Johnson is surely unremarkable. In this age of rockets off the tee, he is a throwback to the days when fairways and greens got the job done.
That's the style that Johnson will take into this weekends LG Skins Game against Wetterich, the king of Skins Fred Couples and defending champ Stephen Ames at the new Celebrity Course at Indian Wells in California.
Johnson brought more than his grinding game to what would be the greatest moment of his career earlier this season. Perhaps it's because of his Iowa upbringing or his Christian faith, but Johnson is renowned for his remarkable attitude, a refreshing mix of humility and confidence.
Coming into Augusta in April, he had missed the cut in seven of 11 majors he had played in, including two years earlier at the Masters.
'My record certainly wasn't very good, to say the least. I guess the positive side of that was I'm about due to make the cut and do something well, so why not?' said Johnson, adding the course, which has been set up for bombers in recent years, was to his liking, especially in chilly temperatures on the weekend.
'The course played to my favour because of the fact it was playing fast and firm. If it was wet and soft, it would have been very difficult for me to perform the way I did,' Johnson said.
'As far as my attitude went, especially during the tournament, all along I felt pretty good about my game, especially my putting. At that time, I was seeing the lines pretty well and I had the speed down to an extent, so I felt pretty good about that. My whole mindset was really `Why not me?' '
The toughest dog in the yard at majors usually has the answer to that question. Put Tiger Woods anywhere near the top of the leaderboard and you know his teeth are showing. It's not exactly comforting to have Retief Goosen, Rory Sabbatini, Stuart Appleby or Justin Rose in the neighborhood either.
'When Tiger is in the last group on a Sunday in any tournament, especially a major, he's supposed to win,' Johnson said.
'As far as him breathing down my neck, I didn't really feel that to be honest with you. I certainly heard his eagle on 13, but I didn't look at the leaderboard until about 16 and there were still two groups behind me,' Johnson said.
'There were so many players involved, it's unfair to say it's just Tiger.'
He is correct, but Johnson left those names in his wake as his uninspiring one-over score for the tournament was two better than Woods, Goosen and Sabbatini. This unremarkable guy was suddenly remarkable as he slipped on his green jacket, but the truth is he was always remarkable with his gentlemanly qualities.
His career also seems headed in the direction of remarkable and while many pundits will try to explain why, that isn't the question in Johnson's case.
The appropriate question is: Why not?
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Editor's Note: Ian Hutchinson is golf columnist for the Toronto Sun and senior writer for Pro Shop Magazine, a Canadian golf trade publication, and Canadian Golfer Magazine. He is also a frequent contributor to Golf Scene and Golf Canada Magazine, the official magazine of the Royal Canadian Golf Association.
Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead
New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.
The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.
"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."
Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.
It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.
Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.
Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore
SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.
Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.
He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.
Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.
Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.
The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.
''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''
Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.
He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.
Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.
''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''
13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest
Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.
Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.
“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”
Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.
Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.
Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.
Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.
“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”
Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.
“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.
This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.