Johnson Headlines Deere Classic
Wednesday, July 11th 2007, 9:31 pm
By: News On 6
SILVIS, Ill. (AP) _ Obscurity is a little harder to come by these days for Masters champion Zach Johnson, so he was surprised to find it so close to home at the John Deere Classic.
Johnson was practicing on the 18th green of the TPC Deere Run over the weekend when two men from Chile, who were guests of corporate customers, approached and began asking questions.
First they wanted to know if Johnson would be playing in the pro-am. Then, they asked if he was a professional. And after realizing he was a PGA Tour member, they asked how his year was going, and if had he won a tournament.
``I'm like, 'Yeah, I won a tournament in Augusta,''' Johnson said.
Along with being the Masters champion, Johnson won the AT&T Classic outside Atlanta a month later and now trails only Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and K.J. Choi in the FedEx Cup standings.
He is the star attraction at the John Deere Classic, which he considers his home event, even though he hasn't exactly owned it. Johnson, who grew up just over an hour away in Iowa, has not finished higher than 20th.
``I don't know why that is,'' Johnson said. ``I don't know if it's the golf course, I don't know if it's just me not playing well. It's probably a mixture of both.''
This would be a good time to fix that. Johnson, at No. 15, is the only player among the top 45 in the world ranking at the John Deere Classic, which starts Thursday. Also in the field is John Daly and defending champion John Senden of Australia.
The two men from Chile presumably didn't see the Masters this year, or they might have recognized the guy who made three birdies down the stretch to pull away from Woods. They probably didn't see Mickelson slip the green jacket over Johnson's shoulders.
Then again, Johnson was has rarely been billed as a star. The Masters was only his second career victory, and when it was over, he didn't exactly paint an exciting picture of himself.
``I'm from Cedar Rapids, Iowa,'' he said after winning the Masters. ``That's about it. I'm a normal guy.''
Normal has a different meaning for Johnson these days.
He started the season with a different milestone _ parenthood _ when his son was born. Besides taking care of an infant while traveling the tour, he also is learning to say no. That might come in handy as his son grows up, but he's able to use it now.
Johnson recently turned down appearance money to play in Germany the week after the British Open, in part because he had already committed to the John Deere, which he said is ``borderline a major for me.'' Had he accepted the offer, Johnson would have wound up playing five tournaments in a row and nine in 10 weeks.
``I need my rest and I need to focus on the majors,'' Johnson said. ``That's the priority. It was this year and it was the previous years, and it will be upcoming years.''
Daly simply wants to try to build some momentum after being bothered by injuries on the course, and bizarre allegations off it.
He dislocated a rib at the Honda Classic in early March while trying to stop his swing when he heard a fan take a picture, and he withdrew from the PODS championship the following week because pain forced him to swing with one arm. Then came the bizarre episode in Memphis, Tenn., when he showed up at the course with scratches on his face.
He accused his wife of attacking him with steak knives. She accused Daly of sexually assaulting her and using the knife attack as a cover-up. They eventually called a truce.
Daly tied for 16th at the Buick Open two weeks ago, his best finish of the year, then missed the cut at Congressional.
``I've been hurt pretty much most of the year,'' Daly said. ``These past three, four weeks I've been healthy so I just want to keep going.''
Senden wouldn't mind duplicating what he did a year ago. He birdied the 17th hole and dug out of a bunker on the 18th before tapping in to save par and hold off J.P. Hayes for his lone PGA Tour victory.
``I felt good all week,'' Senden said. ``I had a really good weekend at the Western Open the week before _ some good putting and good scoring _ and that led into some confidence.''