Zach Johnson As Good as Advertised

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04 Buick InvitationalOne by one, they came. They introduced themselves. They shook his hand. They chatted for a few minutes.
 
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.