Day 8 Johnson Mr Cool at Masters

By Mercer BaggsDecember 18, 2007, 5:00 pm
Editor's note; In the holiday spirit, the Team is counting down the 12 Days of Golf, the most memorable days of the 2007 season. This is Day 8. Watch Golf Central Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 8 p.m. ET for their Year-End Special!
Day 8The U.S. Open offers up an occasional surprise winner. The Open Championship does it a little more often ' the PGA Championship even more so.
But not the Masters. The Larry Mizes of the world are few and very far between during green jacket ceremony time.
On April 8, 2007, however, the time had arrived for another Guess Who?
Zach Johnson
Zach Johnson was the first player not named Tiger or Phil to win the Masters since 2003. (Getty Images)
Zach Johnson began the final round at Augusta National trailing leader Stuart Appleby by two strokes. Also ahead of him was Tiger Woods, who was just one off the lead, and a group of players not far in the rearview, including Phil Mickelson, David Toms and Jim Furyk.
To say that Johnson was the least accomplished of all these players is an understatement. He had only one PGA TOUR win to his credit, that coming in his rookie season of 2004 just down the road at the then-named BellSouth Classic.
But this had been a strange, strange week in Augusta, Ga., and Saturday was the oddest. The temperature never reached 50 degrees in the third round, the scoring average was 77.35, and the 54-hole lead stood at 2 over par.
There was a sense of normalcy Sunday afternoon, when four-time Masters champion Tiger Woods birdied the second hole to take the outright lead.
And then things got wacky again.
For only the third time in his professional career, Woods lost the lead in a major championship. And for the first time, he failed to get it back.
Tiger made bogeys on the sixth and 10th holes, and broke his 4-iron hitting a tree at the 11th. Despite an eagle on the par-5 13th, he was unable to do better than even-par 72. It marked the first time Tiger failed to break par in any round during a Masters Tournament. His 3-over total left him in a tie for second place (just his third-ever runner-up showing in a major).
This day, though, wont be remembered for Tiger Woods losing ' or Appleby (75) or anyone else ' it will be forever remembered as the major Zach Johnson rightfully won.
The old adage that that Masters isnt won until the back nine on Sunday held true.
Johnson made three birdies in a four-hole stretch on the inward half. He birdied the par-5 13th, after laying up, and the par-4 14th. After another lay-up on the par-5 15th led to a routine par, he made a 12-footer for birdie at the par-3 16th to give himself a three-stroke cushion.
That advantage was reduced to two following a bogey at 17, but a clutch up-and-down at 18 saved the day for the 31-year-old from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
After a kiss from his wife and a kiss to his newborn daughter, Johnson waited to see how Woods would finish; after all, this was Tiger Woods ' and no one had won the Masters from outside the final group since 1990.
But there was no Tiger magic this time around, no hole-out from the fairway. And dont think Johnson wasnt holding his breath when Woods struck his approach to the 18th hole.
I was sitting in the locker room, waiting for Tiger to hit his shot on 18, and I thought, He's done stranger things, Johnson said.
Johnson was referring to the regular locker room for Masters participants ' a place he will no longer be required to use for storage. Johnson now gets to use the Champions locker, alongside the likes of Tiger and Phil and Vijay, and all the legends who still attend the annual April event.
Phil Mickelson was the man who had the honor of placing the green jacket on Johnsons shoulders, while Johnson felt it a privilege to have won on Easter Sunday.
My faith is very important to me, he said. I had people looking after me. It was awesome.
Johnsons win revived memories of a major triumph 52 years prior. It was at the 1955 U.S. Open that Jack Fleck, a fellow Iowan, stunned the golf world by defeating Ben Hogan in a playoff.
Johnsons win wasnt quite as shocking, but it was still a surprise, especially if you consider the fact that in two previous starts at Augusta he had a missed cut and a tie for 32nd.
Johnson went on to win four starts later at the AT&T Classic, formerly the BellSouth, which gave him three career wins, all in the state of Georgia.
Johnson had always been a bulldog on the course. In college he attended Drake University (whose nicknames is the Bulldogs) on a golf scholarship. He wasnt anything overly special in the collegiate ranks, but he did manage to steadily improve.
Upon turning pro, Johnson worked his way to the PGA TOUR, first by winning on the Prairie Tour and then the Hooters Tour and then the Nationwide Tour, where he was the Player of the Year in 2003.
It took Johnson only nine starts as a rookie in 04 to notch his first PGA TOUR victory. He didnt win again until his Masters triumph.
This year was special for Johnson, easily the best hes ever endured in the professional ranks. He finished seventh on the final FedExCup standings, was eighth on the money list with nearly $4 million, and moved inside the top 15 on the Official World Golf Ranking.
The question now being asked is: Where does Zach go from here?
That leads to other questions like: Will he become a top-10 player in the world? And, of course, Will he ever win another major?
Regardless of the answers to those, Johnson is, as of April 8, 2007, a major champion now and forever.
Related Links:
  • Johnson Wins Masters Tournament
  • Golf Central Special: Comparing Masters and U.S. Open
  • 12 Days of Golf Countdown
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