By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Zach Johnson’s fifth-place finish at the Wyndham Championship gave him a slight cushion in the Presidents Cup standings as he prepares to sit out this week’s The Barclays to attend his brother’s wedding.
Johnson moved up one spot to ninth in the U.S. team standings. The top 10 after the Deutsche Bank Championship ends Sept. 2 qualify for the team; U.S. captain Fred Couples will announce two captain’s picks two days later. The Presidents Cup will be held Oct. 3-6 at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Columbus, Ohio.
Johnson is the best man at the wedding of his brother, Gabe, this weekend; the former Masters champion is expected to be in the field for next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship. Johnson has finished in the top 10 in his past five starts, dating to a playoff loss to Jordan Spieth at the John Deere Classic. He also has top-10s at The Open Championship (T-6), World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational (T-4) and PGA Championship (T-8) and World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational during that span. Johnson represented the United States in the 2007 and 2009 Presidents Cups.
Webb Simpson improved from 12th to 10th in the U.S. standings after his 11th-place finish at the Wyndham. A final-round 63 moved him up 20 spots on the leaderboard. Simpson made his Presidents Cup debut in 2011.
Steve Stricker dropped from ninth to 11th in the Presidents Cup standings this week; he was the only player to fall out of the top 10. Stricker, the 2007 The Barclays champ, is not in this week’s field, but is scheduled to play next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship. He is playing a limited schedule this year to spend more time at home.
Dustin Johnson is 12th in the U.S. standings, followed by Jim Furyk, Bubba Watson and Billy Horschel.
Tiger Woods continues to lead the U.S. team standings, followed by Brandt Snedeker, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Bill Haas, Hunter Mahan, Zach Johnson and Simpson.
There was no movement in the International Team standings last week. Adam Scott leads the standings, followed by Ernie Els, Charl Schwartzel, Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen, Hideki Matsuyama, Branden Grace, Richard Sterne, Angel Cabrera and Tim Clark. There are six South Africans in the top 10. The International team’s 10 automatic qualifiers also will be set Sept. 2, followed by Nick Price’s captain’s selections Sept. 4.
Thongchai Jaidee, Marc Leishman and George Coetzee are Nos. 11-13 in the standings.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Zach Johnson's first two rounds at Sedgefield this week have been solid, although quite what he had hoped.
The veteran is tied for 10th at 5 under but Johnson knows he could be even closer to Patrick Reed's lead. After all, he was 4 under through five holes on Thursay and 3 under through six on Friday only to shoot 67 and 68, respectively.
"Great starts and pretty average, poor finishes," Johnson said. "Lot of opportunities, just not capitalizing I guess is what I would say.
"But this is only my second time playing here. I got to get used to the golf course and it's hard to make putts. If you land it one yard one way or one yard the other way it's a birdie or potential bogey and that's the beauty of this track."
Maybe there's a really low round waiting for him on what is shaping up to be a rainy weekend at the Wyndham Championship. Johnson is riding the momentum of four straight top-10 finishes, including a playoff loss to Jordan Spieth at the John Deere Classic.
Johnson had been particularly pleased with his play tee to green, although what he calls "average" putting has prevented him from taking advantage of all the opportunities. He's confident and "playing freely."
"I think everything's good," Johnson said. "I feel like I'm managing my game good. What's kept me from winning was the fact that I didn't make any putts coming down the last nine holes at John Deere. I don't feel like I lost that tournament in the playoff, I feel like I lost it in regulation, if anything."
Johnson says he likes Sedgefield more and more each time he plays the Donald Ross gem.
"It doesn't require a bomber," he said. "It's fair, it's hard and the greens are fast. I like it a lot."
Johnson will like it even better come Sunday if he departs with the Sam Snead Trophy. He won't be heading to The Barclays, though -- Johnson will be serving as the best man at his younger brother Gabe's wedding.
"One of the best weeks of my life was my wedding," Johnson said. "I want the same thing for my brother and I want to be there."
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Zach Johnson, who came to the Wyndham Championship riding the momentum of four straight top-10 finishes, will not be playing in The Barclays next week.
He's got a pretty compelling reason, though. Johnson will be standing up for his brother Gabe as best man at his wedding.
Johnson came to Greensboro ranked No. 23 in the FedExCup standings so he should be good for at least three and probably all the Playoffs events. At 10th in the Presidents Cup, though, he only has this week and the Deutsche Bank Championship to try to maintain his spot in the automatic qualifiers for the U.S. Team.
Once the 10 qualifiers are finalized after the Deutsche Bank Championship, Fred Couples will complete his team with two picks on Sept. 4.
Steve Stricker, who ranks ninth in the Presidents Cup, won't be at The Barclays either. The 46-year-old is No. 19 in the FedExCup.
Stricker, the 2007 Barclays champion, is bypassing the first FedExCup Playoffs event, but will likely play the Deutsche Bank Championship, which he won in 2009, and BMW Championship in Illinois, where he attended college. Stricker also was runner-up the last time The Barclays was held at this year's site, Liberty National.
Stricker has been playing a limited schedule this year to spend more time at home, having already skipped one major, The Open Championship. He is No. 19 in the FedExCup and ninth in the U.S. Presidents Cup standings. The top 10 in the Presidents Cup standings after the Deutsche Bank Championship automatically qualify for the team.
Zach Johnson reacts after his birdie chip on the first playoff hole rattled off the flagstick on Sunday.
By Craig DeVrieze, Special to PGATOUR.COM
SILVIS, Ill. – Zach Johnson’s 13th trip to the 18th tee at TPC Deere Run in the past two years turned out to be very unlucky.
Blocked behind a mighty oak tree on the fifth playoff hole of the 2013 John Deere Classic, Johnson attempted to punch-roll a 9-iron onto a putting surface he has seen plenty of times. He wound up in the water instead, as his approach ricocheted off a tree and landed in the hazard. His title hopes were gone.
The 18th also cost Johnson a win in regulation, when he said his feet sunk deeper than he would have liked in a fairway bunker and he fanned an approach to the right to set up a bogey.
For the record, that’s the very same fairway bunker from which the John Deere Classic board member from nearby Cedar Rapids hit a highlight reel shot to the win his self-named “fifth major” last year.
That winning 2012 shot, by the way, came on his second hole of sudden death vs. Troy Matteson, both played at the par-4 finishing hole.
“Yeah,” Johnson said, some sense of humor still slightly intact. “I don’t need to see that hole many more times.”
He will see it again, of course. And again. The John Deere will be a staple on the 37-year-old nine-time PGA TOUR winner’s schedule for some time, he indicated.
“I love this place, as you all know, and I am just appreciative to be able to play and represent this tournament,” he said.
Johnson said he might replay a missed opportunity or two from his closing round of 68 while on the charter to the Open Championship Sunday night. But he also said he will be ready for Muirfield and the year’s third major championship when the jet lands in Scotland.
“I feel like this is my profession and one thing you have to be is resilient,” he said. “I’ll get over it pretty quick. I’ll keep the mindset that I am playing well and ride it out. I’ll be fine.”
David Hearn will take the same attitude from his own missed opportunities to claim his first PGA TOUR win. The 34-year-old from Brampton, Ontario, next will tee it up in his national championship, the RBC Canadian Open, in two weeks.
“I’m obviously happy with where my game is at going into that,” he said following his second top-10 finish of the year. “So I’ll be happy to compete again.”
By Craig DeVrieze, Special to PGATOUR.COM
SILVIS, Ill. – A long-coveted hometown win already is in his pocket, but defending champion Zach Johnson won’t go into the final round of the John Deere Classic feeling like he is playing with house money.
A year ago, Johnson rallied from four shots behind and emerged as a playoff winner in the tournament he has called his fifth major.
He will start Sunday’s final round three shots behind third-round leader Daniel Summerhays, but he said he won’t take a free-wheeling, nothing-to-lose approach as a result of having already etched his name on the John Deere trophy.
“I don’t think so,” said Johnson, who grew up 90 minutes west of the Quad-Cities in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “If there is anything I am going to put in my pocket it’s the fact that I know I can do it here on Sunday.
“More than that, though, having a good day tomorrow, whether I win or lose, is going to be big in the grand scheme of things. Big-picture, year-end things.”
Primarily, those things would be improving his position for the FedExCup Playoffs and making a push to win a spot on the U.S. Presidents Cup side.
A sub-standard first half of the year has left the nine-time PGA TOUR winner in 75th place in the FedExCup standings as the stretch run to the FedExCup Playoffs approaches.
He will play in four of the next five events, with an eye on being one of 30 players to tee it up in the TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola. A family obligation during the first week of the Playoffs at The Barclays added urgency to moving up the FedExCup standings.
He stands 14th on the Presidents Cup list and is bidding for his third turn on the U.S. team since 2007.
His 2012 win here does feed his confidence.
“Certainly, I’m going to embrace some of those feelings that I had last year,” he said. “What I do remember from last year was that Sunday was a complete day of patience. I got off to a pretty slow start, parred the first six or seven holes and shot 6 under.
“I feel like tomorrow is a day that I have got to stay in the present and I feel like I am in a good place to do that.”
Zach Johnson shares the lead at the John Deere Classic, with Steve Stricker not far behind. (Cohen/Getty Images)
By Craig DeVrieze, Special to PGATOUR.COM
SILVIS, Ill. – Hawkeyes communing with Fighting Illini is akin to dogs sleeping with cats in this Mississippi River border burgh. But Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker just don’t seem to know how not to get along.
At the John Deere Classic, ardent Iowa fan Johnson and Fighting Illini grad Stricker are favorite sons. Stricker – who also mixes Wisconsin roots into this muddled Big Ten picture – owned a piece of the TPC Deere Run leaderboard for the better part of four years before a balky driver and a charging Johnson stalled his bid for a JDC four-peat down the Sunday stretch last year.
Johnson, the defending champion who grew up from 90 minutes west of the Quad Cities, hasn’t let loose of the tournament lead since then.
Grouped with their 2012 Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III, Johnson and Stricker played side-by-side in the first two rounds of this year’s Deere affair. That could have been a combustible mix – if either of the favored JDC siblings contained an ounce of combustibility in their Big Ten DNA.
Thursday was Iowa Hawkeyes Day at TPC Deere Run.
Friday was Fighting Illini Day.
“Yeah, I got a lot of I-L-L chants and a big cheer when I birdied 17,” said Stricker, who donned his brightest orange shirt to note the occasion.
So did that stick in the craw of the Hawkeye guy?
“He was all right,” Stricker said. “He got a lot of Hawkeye love yesterday.”
Johnson at least tried to take the trash-talking bait when asked how those I-L-L chants struck him Friday: “I could fill in the blank with ‘a-n-n-o-y,’ but we won’t go there, will we?”
Well, technically, we just did. But nonetheless …
One thing that couldn’t be clearer is the level of admiration that Johnson, the 37-year-old whose nine career wins include the 2007 Masters, has for Stricker, who is nine years the Iowan’s senior and has three more wins on his resume.
“He is just a model of consistency,” Johnson said. “That’s the kind of guy you try to model your game after.”
Johnson especially wouldn’t mind being stricken with a case of Stricker’s famously effective putting stroke. And maybe he has been. In the midst of a subpar year, he came to TPC Deere Run ranked 101st in strokes-gained-putting. He is fifth this week.
“Ooh, that’s a good question,” Johnson said when asked if he putts better when he plays with a player who putts like Stricker. “Maybe. He just sets into it and it doesn’t look like he is going to miss. It’s fun to watch. Kind of gets you into that mode of trying to make putts yourself.”
Stricker, meanwhile, said it’s easy to feed off Johnson when he is playing well.
And especially here.
“Yeah, it’s fun,” he said. “He’s playing great. He obviously has a great feeling for this course, much like I do. It’s fun to play with him and it’s fun to feed off his energy and his crowd.”
The Hawkeye fan and the Fighting Illini will be separated in Saturday’s third round. Johnson, a co-leader at 12-under 130, will tee off an hour behind Stricker, who is three shots behind.
But given Stricker’s penchant for going low here – he had rounds of 63, 62, 61 and 60 while racking up his three straight wins – a final round reunion of these favorite John Deere Classic sons can’t be ruled out.
Maybe Sunday heat can bring this favored sibling rivalry to a boil.
By Craig DeVrieze, Special for PGATOUR.COM
SILVIS, Ill. -- With a series of stealthy par saves, defending champion Zach Johnson set a John Deere Classic record with his ninth career bogey-free round at TPC Deere Run and will enter the weekend with a share of the lead.
A two-putt par from 72 feet at the 18th hole completed a 5-under second-round 66 for the 2007 Masters champion from nearby Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
“Today was a hard 66,” he said. “Yesterday was a much easier 64.”
Johnson joined PGA TOUR rookie Patrick Reed and 2009 U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover in the midway lead at 12-under 130 for the tournament.
Matt Jones, a co-runner-up a week ago at The Greenbrier Classic, is alone in fourth, one shot behind the lead trio.
Troy Matteson, a playoff loser to Johnson a year ago at TPC Deere Run, is part of a quintet two shots behind. He is joined at 10 under by Kevin Streelman, Jerry Kelly, Daniel Summerhays and David Hearn.
Three-time JDC winner Steve Sticker missed a 2 1/2-foot par putt at the finishing hole, or he too would have entered the weekend double-digits under par.
Johnson’s round included five birdies, but more critical were par saves at Nos. 5, 6, 7, 15 and 18.
“I didn’t drive it very well but the positive side is I know I can play here if I don’t drive it,” he said. “My short game was tremendous. I putted great and I chipped it even better.”
Fighting through a run of five missed cuts in his past six starts, Glover fired an afternoon round of 9-under 62 to join the lead group.
“I’ve been struggling,” he said. “I was ecstatic to shoot 3-under yesterday. You can imagine how I feel today.”
Overnight co-leaders Zach Johnson and Camilo Villegas are already looking up the leaderboard and the morning wave hasn't even finished at TPC Deere Run.
Will they be able to make a run at the lead this afternoon? Here's a closer look at who and what to watch for this afternoon (all times ET):
Zach Johnson, 1:45 p.m.: The defending champion got of to a good start with a 64 in the opening round but will have to play catch up, which shouldn't be much of a problem. He's recorded 17 straight rounds in the 60s there and his last eight rounds there have been bogey free.
Steve Stricker, 1:45 p.m.: The three-time John Deere Classic champion continues to play well on a limited schedule, but he'll need something lower than another 67 to sniff the lead going into the weekend here.
Davis Love III, 1:45 p.m.: Two weeks ago, Love withdrew from the AT&T National with a hip injury after an opening-round 83. The following week he tied for ninth at The Greenbrier Classic. He's in decent shape again after a 67 Thursday.
Jordan Spieth, 2:25 p.m.: The 19-year-old is in danger of missing the cut after an opening-round 1-under 70. The projected cut is currently 2 under. It's already been a successful season for Spieth, however, who has locked up his card for next season.
Camilo Villegas, 2:45 p.m.: Like Johnson, Villegas will have some catching up to do despite opening with a 64. That said, the last time Villegas opened with a 64, he followed it with a 77 the next day and missed the cut at The Honda Classic earlier this year.