Johnson Lives Up to Pre-Season Hype

By Mercer BaggsNovember 2, 2004, 5:00 pm
04 Tour Championship by Coca-ColaIn just a few days time, Zach Johnson will no longer be a rookie on the PGA Tour. Hell sign his scorecard some time on Sunday ' hopefully, for his sake, in the late-evening hours, putting an official stamp on his first season on tour.
Johnson, however, hasnt felt like a rookie for quite some time.
Most first-timers are allowed certain anonymity when they arrive in the big league. They get to feel their way around this new professional life and acclimatize themselves, without the burden of outside expectation and unwarranted pressures.
But not Johnson.
Not when youre the reigning player of the year from the minor league. Not when youve set money records and scoring records and other statistical marks never before achieved at that level.
It was a little overwhelming at first, Johnson admitted. The transition (to the PGA Tour) was a half-a-step up from the Nationwide (tour), on the golf side of it. But what was the difficult part was there was a lot of extra stuff to deal with. There was a lot of attention my way, a lot of media exposure.
'Dont get me wrong, I'm not complaining ' I appreciate it, and I dont mind doing it. I appreciate the fact that people are interested in me. But it can be a little overwhelming.'
Countless profiles, multiple magazine covers, hundreds of questions ' all just part of being the early-season It guy.
All the hype started to wind down about April, and then
And then I won, he said, and it came back.
But when it came back, I was a bit more prepared.
In just his 13th career start on tour, Johnson captured the BellSouth Classic the week before the Masters Tournament.
Two months prior to his breakthrough performance in Atlanta, Johnson was on the practice range at the FBR Open in Phoenix, where he laid out his desired outline for the season: win; play in at least one major; qualify for the Tour Championship.
As he now looks back, he can put a checkmark by all three.
Johnson has made 29 starts this year ' including three major appearances (he didnt make the Masters field). In addition to his victory, he has a pair of top-3 finishes, and a total of five top-10s. All-in-all, hes pocketed $2,276,085; good enough to place him 18th on the money list and give him a return ticket to Atlanta for the season finale.
Ive accomplished goals, he says and then pauses. Lets say its been more positive than negative this year.
Ive got my specific goals each season: win; finish in the top 30; play in every major, he added. But the one that is the most important to me is: to improve.
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.
It took six years, but Johnson finally improved enough to qualify for the PGA Tour in 2004.
After turning professional upon his graduation from Drake University 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.
And this year its only gotten better. He even purchased a motor home, which he and his wife, Kim, take to each and every tour stop ' even if they have to hire someone else to drive it.
Johnson said he was pleased overall with his continued improvement on the course this season. And well he should be. His numbers, aside from those that start with a dollar sign, werent as good as last year on the Nationwide Tour, but theyre very impressive for a guy playing in his first season at such an elite level.
Johnson ranks in the top 40 on tour in driving accuracy, greens hit in regulation, putting and scoring average. Hes outside the top 100 in driving distance, but is still averaging nearly 286 yards per measured pop.
He can hit it plenty far ' he averaged over 300 yards per drive a year ago, but scales it back for accuracy.
He may, however, unleash that power a little more next season, thanks to a new fitness regime.
Johnson said ' like most of the rest of us ' he tried to establish some sort of exercise program this year; he just didnt have the motivation ' the kind you get when youre actually paying for someone elses services.
I think in order to improve, its a matter of staying healthy and getting stronger, he said. 'There's only so much technology can do.
Having a set fitness routine would be very beneficial. I think if I pay somebody to (set his routine) Im not going to slack off. If I dont then Ill (work out), but not all the time.
When you give someone your money, it provides motivation.
Johnson will have plenty of time to test that motivation over the off-season. He only plans to play in the Korea Golf Challenge in late November and the Tommy Bahama Challenge on Jan. 1.
Other than that: Well go up north to visit family during Christmas and then head over to Hawaii a little early for the Mercedes. Thats about it, he said. Just taking it easy.
As for his game, any off-season changes will be physical, not mechanical for Johnson. He doesnt plan on making any major alterations in his swing. Thats because he and his teacher, Mike Bender, dont overhaul; they tune-up.
One thing I worked on, two, three years ago with my instructor is a foundation, Johnson said. When things go wrong I dont have to change anything. I can go back (to the foundation), take things apart and build them back up.
Theres just not much to take apart right now.
Johnsons rookie campaign has been a categorical success, and he expects ' as is his primary goal ' only to improve in 2005.
'I pretty much have the same goals for next year as this year. I still want to win, as much as I can, I still want to play in all of the majors, and I still want to make the Tour Championship,' he said. 'And I still want to keep getting better.'
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    Woods: New putter should help on slower greens

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 11:35 am

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods’ ice-cold putting showed at least a few signs of heating up earlier this month at The National, where he switched putters and ranked seventh in the field on the greens.

    The mallet-style putter is still in the bag as Woods prepares for The Open, and he’s hoping the heavier model with grooves will prove valuable at Carnoustie.

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “To be honest with you, I’ve struggled on slower greens throughout my entire career,” Woods said Tuesday. “So for me, it’s going to help on these greens, for sure.”

    To combat the slower greens, Woods usually applied a strip of lead tape to his putter. But this heavier model of putter doesn’t need the extra weight, and the grooves on the putter face allow the ball to get rolling faster and hotter.

    “You don’t necessarily have to do that with the grooves,” he said of the lead tape. “When I putted with the Nike putter, I didn’t have to put lead tape on the putter to get a little more weight to it. I could just leave it just the way it was. This is the same type.”  

    For all of the talk about his putting woes this season, Woods still ranks 56th in strokes gained: putting. More crucial this week: He’s 102nd in approach putt performance, which quantifies how well a player lag putts.

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    Woods: Open best chance for long-term major success

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 17, 2018, 11:26 am

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Tiger Woods is more than a decade removed from his last major title, but he said Tuesday that The Open is the major that gives him the best chance for long-term success.

    “I would say yes, because of the fact that you don’t have to be long to play on a links-style golf course,” Woods said during his pre-tournament news conference. “It certainly can be done.”

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    Woods pointed to the late-career success for both Greg Norman (2008) and Tom Watson (2009), both of whom challenged for the claret jug deep into their 50s.

    “Distance becomes a moot point on a links-style golf course,” he said.

    That’s certainly not the case, however, at the Masters, where bombers long have thrived, or the U.S. Open, which places a premium on long and straight driving.

    “You get to places like Augusta National, which is just a big ballpark, and the golf course outgrows you, unfortunately,” he said. “But links-style courses, you can roll the ball. I hit a 3-iron that went down there 330. Even if I get a little bit older, I can still chase some wood or long club down there and hit the ball the same distance.”

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    "Vantage Point with Mike Tirico" set to debut Tuesday, July 17 at 9 p.m. ET on Golf Channel

    By Golf Channel Public RelationsJuly 17, 2018, 10:15 am

    Special Hour Complementing the Network’s Week-Long Golf Central Live From The Open News Coverage; Premiere Scheduled to Include Interview with 2014 Open Runner-Up Rickie Fowler On-Site from Carnoustie

    Features Include Tirico and Curtis Strange Re-watching ’99 Open at Carnoustie & Jim “Bones” Mackay Facilitating Exclusive Conversation with Caddies Michael Greller, John Wood Recounting Final Round Pairing at 2017 Open

    To help set the table ahead of The 147TH Open at Carnoustie, Golf Channel will premiere Vantage Point with Mike Tirico on Tuesday, July 17 at 9 p.m. ET. An extension of the network’s week-long Golf Central Live From The Open comprehensive news coverage, Vantage Point will revisit landmark moments in The Open’s history, uncover personal stories relevant to the fabric of the week and feature a roundtable discussion with past “Champion Golfers of the Year” on golf’s original championship.

    “It’s a thrill to be going back to The Open again this year, which is a fitting setting to launch this new opportunity,” said Tirico, NBC Sports host who this week will celebrate his 22nd consecutive year covering The Open. “I love being a part of the Golf Channel team during golf’s biggest weeks, and anticipate contributing to our commitment to great storytelling with Vantage Point.”

    Kicking off the premiere of Vantage Point will be Tirico’s exclusive interview with 2014 Open runner-up and 2015 PLAYERS champion Rickie Fowler on-site from Carnoustie. One of Fowler’s favorite events, he has missed just one cut in eight previous appearances at The Open. Other highlights within the show include:

    • Jim “Bones” Mackay facilitating an exclusive conversation between caddies Michael Greller (Jordan Spieth) and John Wood (Matt Kuchar) recounting the final round pairing at The Open last July.
    • Tirico hosting a roundtable discussion with past “Champion Golfers of the Year”: David Duval, Tom Lehman and Justin Leonard.
    • A recollection of one of the most unforgettable collapses in major championship golf, when Jean van de Velde surrendered a three-shot lead on the 72nd hole in 1999 at The Open. Tirico and Curtis Strange – both on the live tournament broadcast that year for ABC/ESPN – recently re-watched the telecast together for the first time since calling it live.


    “This is harder to watch than I thought it was going to be. I’ve never seen anything like

    that in my life. I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like that again.” – Curtis Strange


    “I think I got caught up in the whole deal and felt human for the guy.” – Mike Tirico


    Vantage Point with Mike Tirico will complement the network’s Golf Central Live From The Open, which will feature nearly 60 hours of comprehensive news coverage from Carnoustie. In total, NBC Sports will dedicate more than 350 hours to showcasing the third men’s major championship of the year, including nearly 50 live hours of the network’s Emmy-nominated tournament coverage – annually the most live hours of coverage from any golf event – spanning from Thursday’s opening tee shot to Sunday’s final putt.

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    How to watch The Open on TV and online

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2018, 8:40 am

    You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

    Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

    In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on  

    Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

    (All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; or check the GLE app)

    Monday, July 16

    GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

    GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

    GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

    Tuesday, July 17

    GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

    Wednesday, July 18

    GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

    Thursday, July 19

    GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

    GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

    GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

    Friday, July 20

    GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

    GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

    Saturday, July 21

    GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

    NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

    GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

    Sunday, July 22

    GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

    NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

    GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (