Being Easter, my faith is very important to me, he said, fighting to keep his composure in his immediate post-round interview with CBS Sports. Jesus was with me every step of the way.
It was just about one year ago that Aaron Baddeley won the Verizon Heritage, also doing so on Easter Sunday.
Both Baddeley and Johnson are devout Christians. And one of the first people to greet Johnson after his par save on the 72nd hole, the tap-in that locked up his first major triumph, was his good mate.
Wheres Aaron? Johnson asked in the aftermath. When he saw him, the two grasped hands and Johnson said, Happy Easter. Replied Baddeley: Im proud of you.
When athletes start talking about God and Jesus, many television viewers begin to cringe. They roll their eyes or search frantically for the remote control, trying to quickly change the channel or press the mute button. They act like an offering plate is being extended through the TV screen and into their face.
For some reason, many of us have no problem when an actor wins an Academy Award and then thanks really important people like his or her fashion designer or hairdresser. But we grow ill at ease when someone gives praise to their personal Savior.
'Regardless of what happened today, my responsibility was to glorify God,' Johnson said in his press conference when asked about what this victory meant to him. 'And hopefully He thinks that I did.'
Many feel that when an athlete or entertainer references the Lord that they are doing so in a holier-than-thou manner. That they believe that they have triumphed or succeeded simply because they are Christians and because God loves them more than everyone else.
Certainly, some invoke the name of God because they feel that its the cool thing to do. It makes them feel righteous. But, for the most part, thats not the case.
God loves us all ' those who believe fully in Him and those who dont, and everyone in between ' equally. This is a fundamental Christian belief.
It is my belief, and I would think Johnsons, too, that God really doesnt care who wins and loses a sporting event. I have to believe that hes got plenty of other things to focus on rather than who gets a relatively unattractive green sports coat.
There's an overall plan. This is just a very small part of it.
It's not as if Zach, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit formed a foursome against the rest of the field. There wasn't some favored alliance.
Afterall, there were other Christians playing on Sunday, playing all week. It's not as if Johnson loves God more than any of his Christian brothers.
And it's not as if God loves Zach anymore than you or I.
Johnson didnt win because his faith may be stronger than that of Tiger Woods or Stuart Appleby or Justin Rose or any of the other final-round contenders.
He won because he played better than everyone else. He won because he executed better than everyone else down the stretch. God didnt make three birdies on the back nine; He didnt hit any drives in the fairway or approach shots onto the green; He didnt make any putts; and He didnt roll that final chip shot within inches of the hole.
Zach Johnson did those things. He just did them with God in his heart.
If God helped Johnson, He did so by providing peace and calm amid the chaos around him. And thats a credit to Johnsons faith.
'Zach's usually jumpy and nervous,' said his caddie, Damon Green. 'Today, for some reason, he was as cool as a cucumber.'
At Sunday Easter service, my pastor said that its easy to be a Christian on Sunday, its easy to be a Christian on Easter and Christmas. But its not so easy being a Christian every day of every week. Not enough of us are strong enough in our faith to bear witness to those uncomfortable in hearing such things, particularly when we having something (endorsements, fans perhaps) to lose.
At the green jacket ceremony, after 2006 winner Phil Mickelson had slipped the coveted prize upon his shoulders, Johnson gave thanks to Augusta National; his caddie; his sponsors; and his family, including his 14-week-old son, Will, and his devoted wife, Kim.
And then, on the grounds that claim Amen Corner, he gave praise: Last but not least, being Easter Sunday, thank you, Jesus.
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