Creature of Habit

By Rex HoggardMay 13, 2009, 4:00 pm
Bookmark and Share
Zach Johnson is not a superstitious sort. He doesnt wear the same underwear if he has an extended under-par streak going. His world doesnt go sideways if he loses that lucky coin he used to mark his golf ball in 2007 at Augusta National and there is no pre-round meal that must be adhered to.
 
He is, however, a creature of habit. And when his world got out of position two Sundays ago, the competitive clock for the kid form Cedar Rapids, Iowa, never recovered.
 
The trouble started long before Johnson arrived at Quail Hollow, where he was staked to a two-shot lead over the likes of Tiger Woods and Lucas Glover. As if that one-two combination in the rearview mirror wasnt stressful enough.
 
The driver Johnson hired to wheel his RV back to Georgia was two hours early and somehow during the rushed explanation, the keys to the mobile-Johnson castle became locked inside the bus.
 
As a result Johnson arrived at Quail Hollow 30 minutes later than planned. Now, the runtime of your average sitcom may not seem like much to your generic Monday morning quarterback, but to Johnson, and most other Tour pros, that time is crucial.
 
I was in front of myself all day, Johnson said, and No. 2 (where he made a triple bogey-6) was a shock to my system.
 
After that his plight snowballed, with a bogey at the third and a closing 76 that dropped him into a tie for 11th. A potent cocktail of allergies and stress combined to upend his rhythm and induce a severe headache. Johnson said he was so out of sorts it didnt occur to him to take aspirin to ease the pain. That was so stupid, he sighed.
 
For those of us whose pre-round routine normally includes hurriedly putting on your golf shoes in the parking lot and an 11:10 a.m. sprint to the first tee for an 11 a.m. tee time, Johnsons explanation may sound, well, stupid. But know this about Zach Johnson. He doesnt make excuses and he doesnt confuse denial for constructive criticism.
 
In the days after his Quail Hollow collapse Team Zach ' which includes caddie Damon Green, sports psychologist Dr. Morris Pickens, swing coach Mike Bender and manager Brad Buffoni with SFX ' huddled to figure out what went wrong and, more importantly, how to keep it from happening again.
 
Its not superstition, its just a fact. If he gets rushed he doesnt play too good, Pickens said. One of his key thoughts on the golf course is tempo, tempo, tempo. Any time you get rushed things become more magnified and can have an emotional/physical impact on you.
 
Last Saturday, within the plush confines of the TPC Sawgrass mens grill, Johnson recapped his rushed morning in Charlotte, N.C., with a detached precision that was void of emotion. For a player whose routine may be the most important club in his bag ' after, perhaps, that prolific putter ' Sunday at Quail Hollow was the imperfect storm, but a storm worth studying.
 
I didnt dwell on it and thats a good thing, Johnson said. It was kind of an anomaly. Its golf. Im going to learn from it.
 
What he learned is that his detailed pre-round routine is non-negotiable. With clinical precision, Johnson can run through his game-day ritual: arrive at the golf course two hours before his tee time, 30 minutes of stretching and working out, 20 minutes to eat, 10 minutes of putting on the practice green and chipping, 30 minutes hitting golf balls on the range, 10 more minutes on the putting green and its off to the first tee.
 
Of all the things Johnson does well '10 footers for par, fairways, greens, trophy presentations ' adjusting on the fly may not be one of his strengths.
 
Thats been a recurring theme with Zach. I remember two years ago at Southern Hills (PGA Championship) it seemed like Damon (Green) was always on him to get to the tee, get to the tee, Pickens said. I dont think he got off to a really good start. Its like, Hey man, you dont need to be rushing to the tee. Hes needs a little bit more time.
 
Johnson is hardly the only Tour type with a routine and, like golf swings, each pre-round is different depending on the player. Hes also hardly the first player to let a slightly off pre-game impact his play.
 
I have another player who likes to only have himself and his caddie around when hes warming up, Pickens said. I was around some and his instructor was around, but when he was warming up it became too complicated and too many people. We noticed he wasnt playing real good and taking a while getting into the round. Turned out he was uncomfortable with the set up but didnt want to say anything. It was basically throwing off his timing. Thats how sensitive they are.
 
Hard to think of Johnson, the salt-of-the-earth Midwestern who grinded out a Masters jacket on the most demanding of Sundays, as the sensitive type, but when it comes to game days these guys are all about routine.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage ' Valero Texas Open
  • Golf Channel Airtimes
  • Getty Images

    Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
    Getty Images

    Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

    Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

    Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

    Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

    Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

    12/1: Dustin Johnson

    16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

    20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

    25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

    30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

    40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

    50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

    60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

    80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

    100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

    Getty Images

    Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

    By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

    If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

    Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

    Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


    Updated Official World Golf Ranking


    There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

    There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

    Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

    John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

    Getty Images

    Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

    By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

    Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

    Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

    Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

    “I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

    But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

    “I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”