Monday Backspin: Johnson's successful career deserves respect

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September 17, 2013
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Before I get to Zach Johnson’s victory and all the tournament-within-the-tournament stuff from the BMW Championship, here is a little comparison between two players.

Player A: In 10 full years on the PGA TOUR, this player has 10 career wins, including a major, and just over $33 million in earnings.

Player B: In 10 years on TOUR, this player has 10 wins, including a major, and just over $30 million in earnings.

The first player is Adam Scott. Can you guess the second?

If you said Johnson, you’d be correct.

This isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison -- for one, Johnson is four years older, for another he plays far more frequently than Scott. But go back a decade and no one in their right mind would have predicted that 10 years later these two would have had nearly identical careers on the TOUR to this point.

“Oh wow,” Johnson said to me when presented with that information. “Well, when we talk about (Scott), he’s a guy who has a ton of talent and that talent is really starting to come out.”

That may be true, but at 5-foot-10, 165 pounds few players get more out of their game than Johnson. Not even he could quite comprehend how far he has come.

“Ten wins is -- I'm not so sure I even understand what that is and what that means, especially considering whose era I'm playing in, with Tiger and obviously Phil and some of those guys,” he said. “I'm not wanting to be a prideful guy, but I certainly take pride in the fact that I've done what I've done.”

And now Johnson will head to East Lake with a chance to win the FedExCup.

Reminded again about Scott and the fact that each of them also owns a Green Jacket, Johnson just laughed.

“It might be the only similarity we have,” he said. “He’s very good looking, tall and muscular. I’m not.”

Maybe so, but Johnson is getting just as much out of himself these days.

“I've done what I've done because of work and a great team,” Johnson said. “I'm a product of other people that have helped me throughout my career.”

And a pretty good one at that.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

“The first thing my wife said after Furyk’s round was, ‘It’s not 13-under and it’s not par-72.’” -- Al Geiberger on Furyk’s 59.

“I had a lot of people call me Mr. 59 today, and it just feels wrong.  I always think of Al Geiberger as being Mr. 59, so I guess I'll have to come up with something else creative, because he was the first and should be the only probably.” -- Furyk the day after he joined Geiberger in the 59 club.

“After seeing the video I thought the ball just oscillated, and I thought that was it. I thought that was the end of story. But they saw otherwise.” -- Tiger Woods on being issued a two-stroke penalty after his second round when video appeared to show Woods’ ball move when he attempted to move a twig next to it.

“He was a little disbelieving. How's that?” -- PGA TOUR Vice President of Rules and Competition Slugger White on Woods’ reaction to the penalty.

TWEETS OF THE WEEK

@LukeDonald: Well at least I get my clubs back! #CourseRecordSmashed #Furyk59 -- Donald, whose clubs were on display in the clubhouse for holding the course record at Conway Farms, where he is a member.

@BeemerPGA: Monday finishes are always tough as it throws off golfers schedule. Don't expect too many low scores today. Lots of grinding. -- Except if you’re Zach Johnson, apparently.

@DaveShedloski: Spencer Levin borrowed a shirt from his dad here at Columbus tournament. Cut out logos from old shirt, superglued them to new one. #loyalty -- Golf World writer Dave Shedloski on the always entertaining Levin, who apparently hasn’t lost his sense of humor while trying to work his way back to the PGA TOUR.

THE BACK NINE: 9 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW

1. Where does Jim Furyk’s 59 rank compared to the other five that have been shot on the PGA TOUR? I turned to one of the men who is part of the club, Paul Goydos. “Hard to say,” said Goydos, whose 59 came three years ago at the John Deere Classic. “I feel (Al) Geiberger should be No. 1, though.” Geiberger did it in 1977, in the second round of the Danny Thomas Memphis Classic, and it was a bit like someone breaking the 4-minute mile as no one had ever done it before. I agree with Goydos, but Furyk’s isn’t far behind given the difficult conditions at Conway Farms, where the wind was blowing and the field average that day was a dozen shots higher and the next best score was six shots worse.

2. Where does it rank in Furyk’s eyes? “I don't know,” said the 43-year-old, who, like Goydos, is one of three players to shoot the number and not go on to win the tournament (Chip Beck was the other). “It's going to take some time. Right now, on Monday after the fourth round and finishing third, it doesn't mean that much right this second.” Who can blame him? Furyk hasn’t one in three years and doesn’t need any reminding of that so the 59 is at best bittersweet. “When I'm done and retired,” Furyk said, “it'll be one of the probably three highlights of my career.”

3. Speaking of bittersweet, how about Matt Jones? The 33-year-old Aussie had to go through q-school just to get his card for this season and came within a fraction of an inch of reaching the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola. Instead, his 10-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole lipped out and he fell outside the top 30 in the FedExCup standings. It cost him not only a trip to East Lake, but a spot in next year’s Masters, U.S. and British Opens. “I knew I needed to make that to have a chance,” Jones tod the Australian press. “I hit a good putt and it just didn't drop." Tough to take? Yes. But given where Jones came from this year, he was in good spirits. “I have done well this year," said Jones, who had five top 10s, including a runner-up, and earned more than $1.7 million. “Now I have a flight home to see my wife and daughter so I remain happy."

4. Rory McIlroy, not so much. "If someone had asked me at the start of the year, would you be more surprised at not winning a major or not getting to the Tour Championship, of course I would have said the latter,” said the former world No. 1, who failed to advance to East Lake. “The majors are based on one week, four times a year when a lot of things have to go your way. But over the course of the season, I feel like I should be able to play well enough to get to East Lake. I didn't expect to be in this position." On a positive note, his back-to-back 68s to finish at the BMW Championship marked the first time all year he’d posted consecutive rounds in the 60s in the same tournament. McIlroy will take the next four weeks off before heading to Korea to play.

5. Jordan Spieth became the sixth rookie to reach the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola in the FedExCup era. All of the previous five were named Rookie of the Year and Spieth will join that list. Over the last month, Spieth has not finished outside the top 20 and this season has had eight top 10s, which is a big reason he got the nod for the Presidents Cup over Furyk. “It’s been phenomenal,” Spieth said. “It’s been the best year of my life.”

6. By comparison, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and Ernie Els will not be playing in the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola after all finished outside the top 30 in FedExCup points. At least McDowell has something else to look forward to: His wedding. He’s getting married this weekend. The ceremony will take place at Baker’s Bay Golf & Ocean Club, where McDowell is a member, before he and his bride take their honeymoon next week in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

7. This season has been a trying one for Seung-Yul Noh, who just a year ago turned a lot of heads when he finished 37th in the FedExCup standings. This year was a different story, though, as he switched equipment, struggled to adapt and watched the missed cuts pile up -- at one point missing seven in an eight-tournament stretch. Redemption came Sunday, though, when he won the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship in the Web.com Tour Finals to secure his PGA TOUR card for next season. “He was awesome,” said Noh’s coach, Sean Foley. Indeed. Noh’s 12-under total included a second-round 65 and he coasted to a five-shot victory.

8. Stat of the Week I: Johnson’s 10 wins have come in just four states, and none of them have occurred in California or Florida. He has four wins in Texas, three in Georgia, twice in Illinois and once in Hawaii.

9. Stat of the Week II: The biggest winner this year has been Mother Nature. The BMW Championship was the 22nd event of the season that was suspended for various reasons. All three Playoffs events were affected, and 50 times in all play has been halted for reasons ranging from fog, lightning, thunderstorms, snow, hail, sleet, frost, darkness and high wind. What’s left? The plague?

MONDAY BACKSPIN MAILBAG
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What's the difference between oscillating and moving? Tiger’s ball never rotated, so is that a penalty? -- Mike Williams

Well, if you ask Woods he would say it didn’t move. Rules officials saw it differently, though, and you can see the ball move ever so slightly when you zoom in on the video. The key, and the difference, is that if it had oscillated, it would have fallen back to its original position. The ball never does, though.

At what point does "competitive imbalance" become a legit argument to only some players getting outside people calling fouls? -- Erik Weigand

It’s true Tiger Woods and other top players are subject to more scrutiny because they get more television time than a lot of others, but there’s really no viable solution. Not every shot can be shown on television and you can’t have officials watching every shot from every player like happens in team sports. As long as viewers or others are allowed to call in potential rules violations, it will continue to happen.

What are the best and worst rounds shot following a 59? -- Curt Goodwin

Of the six 59s shot on TOUR, four of them occurred before the final round. The lowest score the next day was a 69, first from Chip Beck at the 1991 Las Vegas Invitational and then Goydos at the 2010 John Deere Classic. The worst score the next day? Geiberger’s 72. He still went on to win, though.

Have a question for the mailbag? Email it to brianwacker@pgatourhq.com, or tweet it to @pgatour_brianw.

FORWARD SPIN: WHO I LIKE THIS WEEK
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The philosophy is simple this week at East Lake, at least for those in the top 5 in the FedExCup standings. Win the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola and you win the FedExCup. Given the way they have played this season, Nos. 1 and 2, Tiger Woods and Henrik Stenson have to be considered the favorites among that group. Adam Scott should be part of that conversation, too. Like Woods, he has won at East Lake before. He also has two other top 10s and comes into this year’s finale third in the standings. But I think this could be the year Phil Mickelson wins his first FedExCup. He has won at East Lake before and is sixth in the FedExCup and he hasn’t had to endure the mental grind of contending week after week the way Stenson has.

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