Despite not trying for a single par five in two, despite having a [photopress:johnson.jpg,full,alignright]driving distance that ranks him 162cnd on the PGA Tour (and behind the likes of Mike Weir), and despite hitting long irons into a lot of greens, Zach Johnson is the new Masters champ.
I’m fascinated by the resulting coverage. Seems like the CBS announcers were actually rooting for Tiger Woods and against Johnson at points during the telecast. Surely the media can’t mention Johnson without also referencing Woods, who didn’t really challenge much on Sunday, hit few good shots (his eagle on 13 was the notable exception), but threw it away with an ill-conceived shot at the green on 15. Take a look at Golfobserver.com to see what I mean.
Johnson’s response to all of this was pretty cool:
After the round, (golfer) Vaughn Taylor said, ËœIf youre not Superman, youre Supermans brother,â€š a reporter said. Tiger and Retief (Goosen) had 15 majors combined. You held them off. Who are you?
Im Zach Johnson, and Im from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he said.
If you want to know more about the kid from Cedar Rapids, check out this story in the Kansas City Star by Joe Posnanski. It is a pretty thorough account of Johnson’s career, including the notion that few felt he would ever be a success on the PGA Tour.
I think the ending to the column, while verging on maudlin, is still quite touching and nicely written:
Zach Johnson thought: If I make this putt, I could win the Masters.
It was all there ” a million emotions. He felt nervous. He felt excited. He felt as if God was with him. He felt as if Tiger Woods was the greatest golfer in the world. He felt as if he had a good line on the putt. He felt as if his 14-week-old son would look up into his eyes no matter what he did. He felt as if he needed to go ahead.
He struck his putt. He made his putt.
After that, it was a blur, a bogey at 17, a soft chip at 18, a final putt, a long embrace with his wife, a kiss on the forehead of his son and then watching Tiger Woods come into 18 needing a miraculous eagle to tie. (Im like ËœHes done stranger things,â€š Johnson said). Woods final shot at victory was way wide, and Zach Johnson was given a green jacket. He had won the Masters. He had beaten Tiger Woods. Its a crazy story. Its an Iowa story.
Cedar Rapids ¦ what is it about that place? he was asked.
I dont know, Johnson said, and he started crying. Its home.
But before we all start choking up, Frank Hannigan on Golfobserver.com makes some good points about the downside of the Masters:
Sadly, the Masters, because of its success is responsible for some of the worst in American golf. They allowed players to play 5 hours and 30 minutes the first two days, even set up times so that such a horror was bound to happen.
The look of Augusta has been a dreadful influence on American golf. It costs a fortune to produce. Attempts are made everywhere to emulate Augusta National. Golf maintenance costs have risen faster than the cost of health care or college tuition.
So what should be taken away from this year’s Masters, the year in which the course finally played the way Tom Fazio and Augusta have redesigned it to play? Well, for three days the tournament was dry as toast and just about as interesting. Players struggled mightily, and if that’s your idea of a good time, why not just watch a fly have its wings pulled off. It is just about as much fun.
I think the powers that be at Augusta realized they had made a mistake by Sunday, watered the greens, while general weather conditions made Augusta more playable. Johnson, however, in a similar way to Mike Weir in 2003, played a careful, calculated game that required a great deal of finesse and skill with long irons, as well as a deft touch with his putter. A similar, U.S. Open-style approach was taken by Retief Goosen, but his decision to hit an iron off 13 and then not make birdie was a key turning point. Goosen needed to find another gear, but instead his conservative play while trailing resulted in a strong finish, but not a win. And who is going to remember who finished behind Johnson?
The one thing this Masters did appear to disprove is the notion that you have to be a long hitter to win. Johnson is 162cnd in driving distance, but 6th in accuracy and 11th in putting. Makes one wonder if Augusta, even at longer than 7,400 yards, has now become more of a putting contest than a bomber’s paradise. Seems to me that those who avoided the pines and could then chip and putt most effectively were those that had the most success.
Among the big Canadian stories coming out of the event was a big win for Dunning Golf. The little Canadian company that could, founded by a man who felt sports fabrics had a place in golf, was a big winner with Johnson prominently wearing Dunning shirts throughout the event. Dunning was in big letters on his sleeve, and it’ll be interesting to see the effect of the win on Dunning’s sales. I’m a huge fan of their clothing (my pink Eagles Nest logoed Dunning golf shirt is one of my favourites), so I’m very pleased to see them break through.
I’m stunned the company doesn’t have Johnson on their homepage yet. The company’s homepage has now been updated to include Johnson on its main page.
One thing did strike me as odd though was Johnson’s apparent feeling that he won the event with the help of God. He noted it was Easter and felt that Jesus had something to do with his win. I’m sure his faith gives him strength and I can respect that. He seems like a well spoken, genuine individual. While I’m sure this plays well in the American heartland, I always wonder the same thing when an athlete thanks God for his succcess: Does that mean Jesus and God didn’t like the other guy as much? Was Jesus rooting for Johnson, but wasn’t so keen to see Appleby win, which is why he hit it in the later on 12? What about poor Justin Rose? I’m not the only one to notice this.