Johnson Poised to Claim First Win

By Sports NetworkApril 3, 2004, 5:00 pm
DULUTH, Ga. -- Zach Johnson posted a 4-under 68 on Saturday to take the lead after 54 holes of the BellSouth Classic. He stands at 13-under-par 203 and owns a three-stroke lead over Padraig Harrington and Scott Hend.
 
Brian Gay carded a 3-under 69 in the third round and is alone in fourth place at minus-9. Defending champion Ben Crane shot a 1-under 71 and is in sole possession of fifth at 8-under-par 208.
 
In the first and second rounds, cool temperatures and winds made scoring very difficult. On Saturday, it was warmer and the wind was down. That may only last one day as the forecast on Sunday calls for wind gusts up to 30 miles per hour.
 
Johnson, the overnight leader and Nationwide Tour Player of the Year in 2003, lost his advantage after a bogey at the fourth on Saturday. Crane tied him atop the leaderboard, but fell one back with a bogey at the fifth. Johnson sank a 5-footer for birdie at the same hole, one group behind Crane, to go ahead by two.
 
Crane fell behind for good at the ninth when his approach sailed over the green. He made double bogey and never got close to the lead again.
 
Johnson had a comfortable margin and played like it with some looses drives. He hit his tee ball into some hay on the left side at 10, a bunker at the par-3 11th and into sand with a 3-wood past the fairway at 12. But the 28-year-old was able to save par at all three holes and keep his seat atop the leaderboard.
 
Johnson used the solid par saves to pick up his game. At 13, Johnson found yet another bunker, but knocked his approach to two feet to set up birdie and go three ahead of the field.
 
He made routine pars at 14 and 15 and even found the short grass off the tee.
 
While Johnson was playing solid golf on the back side, Harrington was charging. The Irishman tallied four birdies on the back nine, then birdied the 18th after attempting to go for the green in two.
 
Johnson's margin was now one, but the 36-hole leader hit his tee ball to three feet to set up birdie at the par-3 16th. Johnson knocked his approach 10 feet short of the hole at the 17th and rolled home the birdie putt to go three up on Harrington and Hend, who made a spectacular eagle at 18 to join the Irishman at minus-10.
 
Johnson had only the par-5 closing hole at the TPC at Sugarloaf. His drive landed in a drain and after his drop, he nailed his fairway metal right into the gallery. His ball was on a blanket and after two failed drops, Johnson placed his ball with no penalty on the hill where it landed.
 
He faced an extremely difficult shot with the slope of the green going against him and toward the water. Johnson had to hit a delicate pitch over a bunker and that's exactly what he did, landing on the fringe and watching as the ball rolled 20 feet left of the hole.
 
'The big pond behind crossed my mind,' admitted Johnson, who is the only player in the field to post three rounds in the 60s. 'The plan there was if I couldn't keep it on the green, then get it in the bunker. I just tried to land it over the bunker. If I did, it wouldn't release too far. I was playing the percentages.'
 
Johnson missed the birdie putt, but tapped in for a great par save.
 
Now Johnson has the 54-hole lead for the first time on the PGA Tour with win No. 1 in his radar.
 
'I'm going to go about it as I did today and the previous days,' said Johnson. 'I don't like to look at numbers. I go about it as my business. Two years ago, I played with Padraig on Sunday. Should be fun to play with him again.'
 
Harrington flew out of the gate on Saturday with two birdies in his first three holes, but lost it all with a triple-bogey 7 at the fifth. He made one more birdie on the front nine, but vaulted up the leaderboard with his play on the second nine.
 
The Irishman recorded four birdies in his first seven holes, including two in a row from the 10th. He had a look at birdie from 10 feet at the 17th, but the putt died on him at the hole. Harrington, who was the runner-up to Adam Scott last week at the Players Championship, made the birdie at 18 to polish off his round of 5-under 67.
 
Now Harrington, a week away from the Masters, has a shot at his first PGA Tour title.
 
'It's quite important,' said Harrington, referring to a win on the PGA Tour. 'Certainly a win on the U.S. tour is an important milestone. I'm not putting myself under any pressure that it has to happen tomorrow, but yes, a win would be very nice.'
 
Hend, an Australian who had not made a cut on tour until this week, was 2 under on his round until the 18th. He knocked his second shot to 5 feet and drained the eagle putt to finish his round of 68.
 
'I'm just trying to be composed and keep doing what I've been doing,' said Hend. 'I'm not really worried about what the lead is and what the tournament is doing, I just want to achieve my own goals this week. I'll be happy if I can achieve them.'
 
Mark Hensby (66), Peter Lonard (69) and Craig Bowden (72) share sixth place at 7-under-par 209. Two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen and Glen Hnatiuk each posted rounds of 4-under 68 and are knotted in ninth at 6-under-par 210.
 
Phil Mickelson shot a 1-under 71 and is tied for 18th at minus-4.
 
Related Links:
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  • Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

    Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

    Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

    By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

    SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

    Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

    ''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

    But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

    In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

    ''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

    Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

    The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

    ''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

    NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

    Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

    Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

    Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

    "He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

    The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

    Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

    "I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

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    "From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

    "And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

    "There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

    Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

    Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

    Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

    Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

    With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

    Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

    “It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

    Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

    Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

    "It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."