Zach Johnson appreciates short, challenging Colonial

By Rex HoggardMay 24, 2012, 10:07 pm

FORT WORTH, Texas – For all the right reasons the likes of Zach Johnson and Chris DiMarco have been typecast when it comes to cozy Colonial Country Club.

Like some ’80s sitcom star, they are comfort characters filling predictable parts. The tactician, the plodder, the fairways-and-greens specialist who prefer angles and positioning over pure power, the art and joy of shot making over the smash-and-grab ways of the modern game.

So as players set out into a two-club zephyr with a tumbleweed chaser the early leaderboard had a Groundhog Day feel to it with Johnson emerging as the clubhouse boss with a 6-under 64 and DiMarco in a large group two shots back.

Johnson hasn’t finished outside the top 10 at Colonial since 2006; he won here in 2010 and figured he actually played better last year, when he finished fourth and lost to eventual champion David Toms, perhaps the elder statesman of the species.

It’s not surprising then that when Johnson talks of Colonial it is in tones normally reserved for an accommodating friend.

“The holes that slope and go right to left like (No.) 3, the wind is in off the right. That's fantastic. There is a trap out there. I just got to peel it off or turn it off the trap and hit it,” gushed Johnson, who scorched Colonial without birdieing either of the layout’s two par 5s. “(No.) 2 is kind of down off the left and it's a left-to-right par 4. So you can fade it and just ride the wind. (No.) 5 today was nice. When that wind is left to right on 5, I just hit it down the left side and let it fall right . . .”

You get the idea, Colonial fits Johnson like an old plaid jacket.

In fact, some would say it’s a friend with far too few contemporaries and far too few cameos on Tour. For all the love showered on the likes of Colonial, Riviera and Harbour Town it’s a relatively exclusive genre among the play-for-pay set which survives most weeks on a steady diet of oversized ballparks with sprawling fairways.

“This is great because there’s not too many courses we play anymore that are under 7,000 yards and when you get here there’s not a huge advantage for the long hitters,” said DiMarco, who opened with a 4-under card. “I would love to see this every week.”

Even when Colonial officials embarked on a concerning nip/tuck in 2008 players braced the way one would if the Louvre were to suggest it was time for the Mona Lisa to be fitted with a mustache.

Officials stretched the Texas gem from 7,054 yards, which it had played since 2000, to 7,204 yards, and although some have suggested the changes ran off Phil Mickelson, who hasn’t played the event since 2010, what emerged from that makeover was a surprisingly subdued change, at least by architectural standards.

For Johnson and those of his ilk it is another testament to the agelessness of a course that has been hosting a Tour event since 1946.

“They haven't been built in the last 10 years,” said Johnson when asked what makes the rare shotmaker’s trifecta so special. “They facelifted Colonial three or four years ago. They didn't do much and they didn't need to and it's fantastic. Riviera, subtle changes, tremendous. Hilton Head, minimal changes, still awesome. They are ball-strikers’ golf courses. They are quality golf courses that don't need a whole lot.”

And Johnson’s praise is far from hollow hyperbole.

In 2011 Colonial ranked as the 22nd-toughest course on Tour, a spot behind Hilton Head and 12 spots adrift of No. 10 Riviera. Perhaps even more telling was a Golf Digest Tour player poll last year that featured all three courses ranked inside the top five – Harbour Town No. 2, Riviera No. 3 and Colonial fifth.

Even in Texas, where everything is bigger, short is not synonymous with substandard. 

“You got to hit it both directions, and I really think this golf course does separate the field; meaning if you are hitting it well and, obviously putting it well, you do rise somewhat to the top and vice versa. It will mangle you and tear you apart if you are a little bit off,” Johnson said. “I just think if it's fun golf, that's the way golf should be and it separates the field the way it should.  . . . I just love it.”

When it comes to Johnson and his kind the affection is mutual. Always is.

Getty Images

Lewis wins Portugal Masters for second time

By Associated PressSeptember 23, 2018, 6:19 pm

VILAMOURA, Portugal – Tom Lewis won the Portugal Masters for a second time after shooting a 5-under 66 in Sunday's final round.

Lewis finished three strokes ahead of fellow Englishman Eddie Pepperell (67) and Australia's Lucas Herbert (71).

Sergio Garcia prepared for the Ryder Cup next weekend with a 65 to finish seven strokes behind Lewis.

Lewis made six birdies along with a single bogey on No. 10 to finish the tournament at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course on 22-under 262.

Herbert led through the first three rounds only to struggle on the final day. He hit a double bogey on the final hole to finish the round on par.

Lewis had trailed Herbert by nine shots after the first round.

''It's been a rough ride but this week I played hard,'' Lewis said. ''I obviously got off to a bad start, to finish the way I've been finishing has been brilliant.''

Lewis first won the tournament in 2011.

''I think this one means more,'' Lewis said, ''it means a lot to come and win this again.''

Getty Images

Tiger Tracker: Tour Championship

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 23, 2018, 3:00 pm

Tiger Woods has a three-shot lead entering the final round of the Tour Championship and is alongside Rory McIlroy in the final group. We're tracking him.

Getty Images

Rose tries to ignore scenarios, focus on winning

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:59 am

ATLANTA – No one has more to play for than Justin Rose on Sunday at the Tour Championship.

The Englishman will begin the day three strokes behind front-runner Tiger Woods after a third-round 68 that could have been much worse after he began his day with back-to-back bogeys.

Winning the tournament will be Rose’s top priority, but there’s also the lingering question of the FedExCup and the $10 million bonus, which he is currently projected to claim.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“The way I look at tomorrow is that I have many scenarios in play. I have the FedExCup in play. I have all of that to distract me,” Rose said. “But yet, I'm three back. I think that's my objective tomorrow is to come out and play good, positive golf and try and chase down the leader and win this golf tournament. I think in some ways that'll help my other task of trying to win the FedExCup. It'll keep me on the front foot and playing positive golf.”

Although there are many scenarios for Rose to win the season-long title, if Woods wins the Tour Championship, Rose would need to finish fifth or better to claim the cup.

There’s also the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking to consider. Rose overtook Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world with his runner-up finish at the BMW Championship two weeks ago. He will retain the top spot unless Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka or Johnson win the finale and he falls down the leaderboard on Sunday.

Getty Images

McIlroy needs putter to heat up to catch Woods

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:29 am

ATLANTA – Although Rory McIlroy is three strokes behind Tiger Woods at the Tour Championship and tied for second place he had the look of a man with a secret when he left East Lake on Saturday.

Trying to play catch up against Woods is never ideal, but McIlroy’s confidence stemmed from a tee-to-green game that has been unrivaled for three days.

“I definitely think today and the first day were similar,” said McIlroy, whose 66 included birdies at two of his final three holes. “I gave myself plenty of chances, and I think the biggest thing today was only just that one bogey. Got to put your ball in the fairway, put yourself in position, and for the most part, I did that today.”

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

For the week McIlroy ranks first in strokes gained: off the tee, third in strokes gained: approach to the green and second in greens in regulation. But to catch Woods, who he will be paired with, he’ll need a much better day on the greens.

The Northern Irishman needed 30 putts on Day 2 and ranks 23rd, out of 30 players, in strokes gained: putting.

McIlroy skipped the first playoff event, opting instead for an extra week at home to work on his swing and the move has paid off.

“I hit the ball well. My wedge play has been really good,” he said. “I've done a lot of work on it the last few weeks, and it seems to have paid off.”