Zach Johnson As Good as Advertised
And all the while, he smiled. He introduced himself. He shook their hands. He obliged them in conversation.
I dont mind, said Zach Johnson, last years Nationwide Tour Player of the Year and current PGA Tour rookie. Im really enjoying myself out here.
Since topping the developmental tour in earnings last season, Johnson has been a hot commodity.
Hes been the focus of many an article, graced the cover of multiple national publications, mugged for a myriad of TV cameras, and been mass projected as the next It guy on the PGA Tour.
And all before he ever struck a ball as a card-carrying member on golfs grandest stage.
I read them, Johnson said of the numerous ' positive 'articles written about him in the last few months.
I like to know what theyre saying. Everyone has been very, very good ' I havent had a complaint.
Theres not much to complain about when its raining accolades.
But talk to the slightly built young man, and watch him play, and you understand why everyone wants to be able to say, I told you so.
While practicing at the FBR Open ' where he failed to make the field as an alternate - Johnson made his way to the range when a television producer asked him for a couple of minutes of his time. And with that, Johnson was headed off the range and into makeshift studio for a brief sit-down interview.
When he reemerged to the practice facility ' and finally started hitting a few balls - no less than 10 people came up to him to greet and meet.
Each time, Johnson took a break from his work ' that is his office ' and chatted with everyone from tournament officials to his newest peers to club representatives to those just wanting to say hello.
Its one of those flattering situations where people want to know more about me, Johnson said.
I dont necessarily like the limelight, but its good to get some exposure ' especially from a business sense.
Smartly said by a man who earned a business management/marketing degree from Drake University.
Its taken Johnson six years to make it onto the PGA Tour.
After turning professional upon his graduation in 1998, the Iowa native played the Prairie Golf Tour for two years.
He qualified for the Nationwide Tour in 2000, but his struggles sent him packing to the Hooters Tour in 2001 and 2002. There, he was the leading money winner in his first year, and second in his sophomore season.
With only partial status on the Nationwide Tour last year, Johnson proceeded to win twice, earn 11 top-10 finishes, make 19 of 20 cuts and set a single-season money record with $494,882.
Johnson isnt being called the Next Tiger Woods ' which would certainly be an unfair burden to bear. But he is drawing comparisons to Chad Campbell.
Id say he is the model for mini-tour players, Johnson said of Campbell.
A model Johnson seems to be mirroring quite nicely ' especially after overhauling his mechanics in 2000 with swing coach and former tour player Mike Bender.
Campbell won eight of 16 events while on the Hooters Tour in 2000; Johnson won his final three events on the same circuit the following season. Campbell won three times on the Nationwide Tour in 2001 en route to earning Player of the Year honors; Johnson had a pair of victories two seasons removed and picked up the same hardware.
Campbell finished runner-up in last years PGA Championship and won the Tour Championship.
Johnson well, give him a couple of years; hes certainly on the same path. For the time being, he just hopes to continue his positive progression.
Week in and week out, I just want to improve. Thats the big thing. I want to improve every week; thats my biggest goal every year, he said.
To be more specific: obviously, I want to win.
He added that he hopes to play in the Tour Championship as well as at least one major this year.
Johnson, who had played in four PGA Tour events prior to earning his card, is making his fourth start of the season at this weeks Buick Invitational.
He missed the cut in his 2004 debut at the Sony Open, but rebounded with a solid tie for 20th in the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and tied for 59th in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
A shade less than 6 feet tall, and weighing in around 160 pounds, Johnson is a solid ball striker. He averaged over 300 yards off the tee last season on the Nationwide Tour, and ranked in the top 20 in both driving accuracy and greens hit in regulation.
But his key to competing lies in how well he wields his magic wand.
Johnson led the Nationwide Tour in putting (putts per green hit in regulation) and was second in overall putts per round.
He averaged 30 putts per round (1.840 per green hit in regulation) in missing the cut in Hawaii. He then needed 27.80 putts per round (1.690) a week later at the Bob Hope.
At Pebble Beach ' where even Tiger Woods has said, You walk off the golf course saying you can never make a 1-foot putt, ' he needed 28.3 putts per round (1.818)
A good enough average to make the cut ' but not to contend. Vijay Singh needed only 27 putts per round (1.654) to win Pebble.
If Im going to win, I have to putt well, Johnson said. Its a simple as that.
That was the best aspect of my game last year, he said, before adding, But theres always room for improvement.
Nearing 28 years of age, Johnson is not a competitive greenhorn. He just needs to adapt to life and conditions on the PGA Tour.
To do that, he has employed the services of veteran caddie Damon Green ' a former mini-tour standout who worked several years carrying for Scott Hoch.
Johnsons also not shy in seeking out advice from seasoned players.
Everybodys been very nice, Johnson said. I try to introduce myself to the veterans, but it seems that for every one I introduce myself to, five introduce themselves to me.
Its been overwhelmingly positive.
And theres plenty of reason to believe it will continue to be so.
Tiger can't commit, goes OB on 16: 'That’s on me'
ORLANDO, Fla. – Standing on the 16th tee with the leaders in sight and the roars of the crowd still ringing in his ears, Tiger Woods contemplated three different options for his most critical tee shot of the week.
He couldn’t decide on any of them, and as a result deposited his chances of winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational into a backyard adjacent to the fairway.
Woods was only one shot back through 15 holes, but with the leaders well behind him on the course he knew he needed at least a birdie on the par-5 16th to keep pace. Instead, he pulled his tee shot left and out of bounds, leading to an untimely and costly bogey on the easiest hole on the course.
“I was caught,” Woods said. “I couldn’t decide what I was going to do.”
In Woods’ mind, he had three options: “fit” a driver left to right with the shape of the fairway, “bomb it over the top” of the dogleg or just hit a 3-wood “straight away.” He opted for the driver, but after missing right the first three days he sent his ball sailing left.
“I bailed out and hit a bad shot,” Woods said. “And that’s on me for not committing.”
Woods went on to bogey the next hole, but after a par save on No. 18 he finished the week in a tie for fifth at 10 under for his third straight top-12 finish. Given the sizzling close of Rory McIlroy, an eagle on 16 likely would have still left him looking up at the Ulsterman on the leaderboard.
“Even though I got up there, I just knew I needed to keep making birdies,” Woods said. “Those guys had so many holes behind me, where I just birdied the same holes and so if they made birdie on those holes, I would have to keep going. I got to 16, I figure I’ve got to play the last three holes in 3 under to have a chance and probably force a playoff. And maybe that wouldn’t have been good enough the way Rory is playing back there.”
McIlroy (64) storms to Arnold Palmer victory
Rory McIlroy fired a bogey-free, final-round 64, birdied the 72nd hole in Tiger-esque fashion and stormed to a three-shot victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Here’s how Rory ended his winless drought, and how the aforementioned Woods made a Sunday charge before collapsing late:
Leaderboard: McIlroy (-18), Bryson DeChambeau (-15), Justin Rose (-14), Henrik Stenson (-13), Woods (-10), Ryan Moore (-10)
What it means: This is McIlroy’s 14th PGA Tour victory and his first worldwide win since Sept. 25th, 2016. That was the day he walked away from East Lake with both the Tour Championship and the FedExCup. It was also the day Arnold Palmer passed away at the age of 87. With the win, McIlroy reasserts himself as a force following a winless 2017 in which he was plagued by a nagging rib injury. The four-time major winner will make one more start at next week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and then make his way to Augusta National, where he looks to complete the career Grand Slam.
Round of the day: Two back to start the final round, McIlroy made his eight birdies in bunches. He circled three of his last four holes on the front nine – Nos. 6, 7 and 9 – to make the turn in 3-under 33 and work his way into the mix. Following three pars at 10-12, he caught fire, ripping off five birdies in his final six holes. He took the outright lead at 14, chipped in at 15, and sealed the deal at 18.
Best of the rest: DeChambeau made McIlroy earn it, cutting the lead to just one when he eagled the 16th hole as McIlroy was walking to the final tee. A par at 17 and a bogey at 18 netted him 68 and solo second.
Big disappointment: This is Stenson’s fourth top-five finish at this event in the last six years. The overnight leader by one, he went 71-71 over the weekend and bogeyed 18 to finish fourth.
Biggest disappointment: Woods made a vintage Sunday charge at Bay Hill before bogeying two of his final three holes and settling for a final-round 69 and a tie for fifth.The eight-time API winner was minus-5 on the day and just one off the lead when he sniped his tee shot at the par-5 16th out of bounds to the left. He bogeyed both 16 and 17 before making a scrambling par at 18 to finish the week 10 under par.
Shot of the day: McIlroy’s birdie putt at 18.
Quote of the day: "It means a lot. You know, the last time I won a PGA Tour event was the day Mr. Palmer passed away, so it's a little bit ironic that I come here and win. He set a great example for all of us players to try and follow in his footsteps. If everyone on Tour could handle themselves the way Arnie did, the game of golf would be in a better place. ... To be able to win his event, I wish I walked up that hill and got a handshake from him but I'm so happy to my name on that trophy." - McIlroy
TT postscript: Masters hype builds after final-round charge
ORLANDO, Fla. – Here are some thoughts from walking one last loop alongside Tiger Woods on another steamy afternoon at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
• What might have been. Woods transformed Bay Hill into an absolutely electric atmosphere when he started the back nine with three birdies in four holes to get within a shot of the lead. Dressed in his traditional red and black, it was a second straight Sunday where we were treated to watching him try to catch the leaders down the stretch.
• But the momentum he had built up disappeared with a single tee shot, as Woods pulled his drive on the par-5 16th out of bounds and into someone’s backyard. His chances for a ninth tournament title were effectively ended with one errant swing, as he bogeyed the easiest hole on the course and then bogeyed the next for good measure.
• While the closing stretch was disappointing, it was still another remarkable week for Woods considering where his game stood a month ago. His 3-under 69 in the final round lifted him to 10 under for the week, and he ended up in a tie for fifth. He’s now on the cusp of the top 100 in the world rankings, and he’ll head to the Masters on the heels of three straight top-12 finishes for the first time since 2008.
• It didn’t take long after his final putt dropped for Augusta National to become a topic of conversation. Woods has played only once since 2014, and he plans to make a return trip before the season’s first major to re-acclimate himself with the course and make sure his yardage book “is still good.”
• Taking the long view on things, Woods was all smiles about his comeback that remains a work in progress. “If you would have asked me at the beginning of the year that I would have had a chance to win two golf tournaments,” Woods said, “I would have taken that in a heartbeat.”
After going T-2 and T-5 in this latest fortnight, Woods will now have two weeks off before he tees it up for a chance to win his fourth green jacket, his first major since 2008 and his first tournament anywhere since 2013. Can. Not. Wait.
Highlights: Tiger (69) makes charge, collapses
Tiger Woods made a vintage Sunday charge at Bay Hill before bogeying two of his final three holes and settling for a final-round 69 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
The eight-time API winner was 5 under on the day and just one off the lead when he sniped his tee shot at the par-5 16th out of bounds to the left. He bogeyed both 16 and 17 before making a scrambling par at 18 to finish the week 10 under par, in a tie for fifth.
"I didn't commit to it," Woods said of his drive at 16, where he attempted to fly his ball over the fairway bunkers, rather than hitting a cut or laying back. "And that's on me for not committing."
Starting five off the lead, Tiger got rolling with with a laced 2-iron and a par at No. 1.
Woods hit the green at the par-3 second but left himself a 50-foot birdie putt and a 6-footer to save par, which he walked in.
Walking in the par putt at No. 2. pic.twitter.com/zuSGZmVL3z— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 18, 2018
A two-putt 4 at the par-5 fourth gave Woods his first birdie of the day and moved him to 8 under for the week. Apparently energized, Tiger pulled driver at the short par-4 fifth and unleashed this violent swing.
A pitch from the thick rough hit a sprinkler head and stopped on the apron, leading to this birdie try, which fortunately hit the pin but unfortunately didn't fall.
Looking to pick up another stroke - or two - at the par-5 sixth, Woods took his drive 317 yards over the water and hit this second shot from 227 yards to 13 feet, leading to another two-putt birdie when his eagle try burned the right edge.
Tiger gets it to 9-under.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 18, 2018
He's 4 shots back. pic.twitter.com/cAZtM14SlJ
Returning to his trusty 2-iron, Tiger found the fairway at the par-4 eighth and then threw this dart from 176 yards to 6 feet and rolled in his third birdie putt of the day to move to 10 under.
His momentum was slowed by his first bogey of the day at No. 9, the product of an errant drive and its ensuing complications. As a result, Woods made the turn 2 under on his round, 9 under for the week, and still five off the lead, like when he started the day.
Drive on 9 is approximately 824 yards off-line right. Approximately.— Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) March 18, 2018
Slides by. Bogey. That’s deflating. Turns at -9 and needs to go lights-out coming home to have any chance.— Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) March 18, 2018
But Woods wouldn't wait long to make up for his mistake, immediately responding with another flagged iron and birdie at No. 10.
He continued his assault on Bay Hill's par-5s at the 12th, getting up and down from the sand for a birdie-4 that moved him to 11 under par, just two off the lead.
This roll at 13 giving him his third birdie in four holes, and the charge was officially on, as Woods was suddenly just a shot back.
Just when it looked like Woods was primed for a late run at his 80th PGA Tour victory, Woods stepped to the tee at the par-5 16th, where he had missed wide right three days in a row, and ripped his drive out of bounds into a backyard miles left.
Uh oh. This is left...— Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) March 18, 2018
Tiger picked the absolute worst time to stop going right on 16. Mercy.— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) March 18, 2018
He made 4 on his second ball for a bogey-6 and dropped another shot at the par-3 17th, ending his chances.
There were highs, and there were lows. But in the end it’s a 3-under 69 today to finish the week at -10.— Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) March 18, 2018
Next stop: Augusta.