The two-time winner in 2012 got a surprise pairing for the FedExCup Playoffs opener.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- This week at The Barclays, as is the custom at all four events in the FedExCup Playoffs, the pairings for the first two rounds will be based on a player's point total.
So Zach Johnson finds himself in what is sure to be the most watched group at Bethpage State Park on Thursday and Friday -- playing with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, who rank Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the FedExCup.
Johnson clocks in at fourth but he gets the marquee pairing because No. 3 Jason Dufner has decided to take a break after playing the last three weeks straight.
Johnson has played with both players before, although never in the same group. He's experienced the energy of the partisan crowds Woods and McIlroy attract. And the nine-time PGA TOUR champ understands the fascination.
"I guess if I wasn't playing with them and I was working out or in my hotel, I'd probably be watching them on TV, so now I've got a first-hand watch," Johnson said. "I know the crowd will be pushing them quite heavily, and it'll be fun."
At the same time, Johnson, a two-time winner in 2012, knows he'll need all the extra focus he can muster when he joins Woods and McIlroy on the first tee. He’ll need to play his own game, not marvel at theirs, to prosper at Bethpage Black.
"Two guys that you certainly can get caught up watching just because of the shots they can hit, shots they can hit that I can't hit," Johnson said with a smile. "I'm just hoping my boring golf kind of gets in the way, and that's really what it boils down to. I like boring golf. That's kind of what butters my bread, so to speak."
Johnson knows his fairways-and-greens style of play doesn't garner as much attention as his two playing partners. But he hopes Zach Johnson fans will come out and support him -- and maybe by the weekend, he'll be able to hear them, too.
"Knowing what I've read and seen and experienced with Tiger and
Rory, their fans are probably a bit more abundant and probably a
little more loud than mine," the former Masters champ said. "So I
don't know how many Zach Johnson fans will be out there, but I'll
be hopefully embracing them and hopefully hitting some quality
"Anyway, it doesn't matter. It's fantastic for our sport. New York fans are sports fans and New England fans are sports fans, and it's always nice coming back here, because they're not afraid to speak loud, they're not afraid to cheer, they're not afraid to applaud a good shot and encourage you when you're down."
The pairings have been unveiled for this week’s PGA TOUR Matchups Game on Facebook. You can check out the Matchups for the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational below, or on the PGA TOUR’s Facebook page.
Participants have until 6 a.m. ET Thursday to make their picks. Log on to the PGA TOUR Facebook page and click the Matchups link to make your picks for this week, or to sign up.
|Tiger Woods vs. Adam Scott||The seven-time Firestone champ takes on last year's winner|
|Ernie Els vs. Keegan Bradley||Two major champs; Bradley tied for 15th in Firestone debut in 2011|
|Jason Dufner vs. Zach Johnson||These two technicians are sitting in third and second in FedExCup points|
|Justin Rose vs. Hunter Mahan||Mahan won here in 2010; Rose scored first WGC win this year at Doral|
|Rickie Fowler vs. Luke Donald||Donald seeks second WGC title; won Accenture Match Play in 2011|
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
At an average of 305.1 yards per drive for the week, runner-up Troy Matteson had the highest driving distance among the top 15 finishers at the John Deere Classic.
It took a little work to get there from an equipment standpoint.
Matteson, a two-time winner on the PGA TOUR, came to TPC Deere Run telling TaylorMade reps he was ‘killing’ his RBZ fairway wood but was not able to hit a power draw on command with his driver. Instead, he was hitting pulls.
Matteson’s original driver, an 8-degree TaylorMade R11S, had been tuned to a lower position while the ASP sole plate was in the closed setting – in short, a low-lofted driver with a open face, setting up closed. To help fix, TaylorMade reps gave him a higher-lofted driver with a closed clubface that appeared square, shortened by an inch to get the club more vertical and promote the draw.
In the end, going from a 7.5-degree/2-degree open face to an 8.5 degree/1-degree closed/1-inch shorter club immediately promoted more ball speed, higher launch and a higher spin rate, allowing the ball to stay in the air and turn right-to-left.
How much the switch pay off? In the first round at the John Deere, Matteson made 10 birdies in a round of 61 and ultimately lost in a playoff to Zach Johnson.
ANSER MEN: At the other end of driver spectrum was Ping, a holdout in the adjustable driver craze – until earlier this month. Ping’s new Anser driver is its first entry into the adjustable market, with lofts able to be tuned a half-degree up or down.
Louis Oosthuizen (pictured at right) put a Anser driver in the bag at last week’s Scottish Open and brought it to the British Open, where he’s the defending champion. Former Masters champion Angel Cabrera has been working with an Anser 3-wood.
SPECIAL DELIVERY: Callaway’s X Utility Prototype irons have been hot on TOUR and will continue to be this week at the British Open, where accuracy is far more important than distance. The company has been frantically shipping clubheads from its PGA TOUR trailer overseas; clubmaker Roger Cleveland even traveled to England with five 18-degree X Utility Prototype heads in his baggage.
BAG BITS: K.J. Choi won the 2011 PLAYERS with Miura irons; last week he finished T13 at John Deere with Callaway RAZR Musclebacks. … Blake Adams switched from steel shafts in his TaylorMade Tour Preferred MC irons to Aldila-prototype graphites at the John Deere. Most PGA TOUR pros prefer steel in irons. … Chez Reavie first began working with a TaylorMade Ghost Spider belly putter at the AT&T National, finally putting it into play at TPC Deere Run and finishing T68.
SCRIPT: You know you’re important when your apparel supplier dresses you. Check out how Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose are scripted by TaylorMade-adidas.
WINNER’S BAG: Johnson at the John Deere
Driver: Titleist 910D2 (Mitsubishi Diamana Blue Board, 9.5 degrees)
Fairway woods: Titleist 910F (15.0 degrees) and 909 F2 (18.5 degrees)
Hybrid: Titleist 909H (21 degrees)
Irons: Titleist AP1 (4) and AP2 (5-9)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design (48, 54, 60 degrees)
Putter: SeeMore FGP
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
By Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction, PGA TOUR Academy
Well, Zach Johnson finally got that hometown win at the John Deere Classic after defeating Troy Matteson in a two-hole playoff. This is Johnson’s second win in 2012, which moves him up to second place in the FedExCup standings, just behind Tiger Woods.
After a bunch of birdies from all over the TPC Deere Run golf course over four rounds, Johnson was forced to make one more birdie from the fairway bunker -- just like Steve Stricker did in 2011. After hitting his fairway bunker shot in the water during the first playoff hole, Johnson got a second chance to redeem himself during the second playoff hole with a very similar shot that he pulled off to near-perfection.
Fairway bunkers are usually not a golfer’s best friend. Although professionals make these shots look easy most of the time, they too can struggle with the precision needed to hit these shots successfully. The key to a good fairway bunker shot like Johnson’s late on Sunday is to make ball contact first. Although this is the case with most every shot in golf, it holds especially true in a fairway bunker.
Here are three tips the next time you face this difficult fairway bunker shot:
1. Grip down and stand a bit closer to the ball at address. This setup adjustment will help control the swing. However, be sure to take enough club to offset its effect on distance.
2. Place your sternum over the ball with weight slightly left at address. It is very helpful to approach this shot like a short game shot. Make sure the sternum is not too far behind the ball but rather more over it, with the weight slightly preset to the forward foot.
3. Conservative swing. I tell my students that when thinking of a fairway bunker shot, less is more. Think three-quarters in this situation, as this will allow you to keep the body more stable with less moving parts. This will help promote that the sternum returns back over the ball with the weight on the lead foot at impact.
Travis Fulton is the Director of Instruction at the TOUR Academies at TPC Sawgrass and the World Golf Village. For more information on the TOUR Academy, click here.
RELATED VIDEO: The top 10 fairway bunker shots on the PGA TOUR
Check out the top five shots of the week from the John Deere Classic and Utah Championship featuring highlights from Zach Johnson, Troy Matteson, Sam Saunders, John Senden, and Steve Stricker.
With his regular caddie, Damon Green, playing in the U.S. Senior Open, Zach Johnson had an opening on his bag at the John Deere Classic, the PGA TOUR event closest to his hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The man who will carry Johnson's bag this week is the man who also coaches him -- fellow Iowa native Mike Bender.
Since winning the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in mid-May, Johnson's best finish in his last three starts is a tie for 41st at the U.S. Open. He's hoping an intense week with Bender -- the two were on the range until late on Monday and had another practice session on Tuesday -- will give him a boost.
"It's not like we're changing anything," said Johnson, who has two top-5 finishes in his last three starts at TPC Deere Run but has never won here. "We're just kind of trying to go back to what we were doing and what we should be doing. You have his eyes and you have the camera. The camera doesn't lie. So you know, you can kind of pinpoint things pretty quick."
Green had caddied in Johnson's last 173 starts on TOUR. Bender told the Des Moines Register that he has been a caddie on just one other occasion, for Mac O'Grady, a former client, "years ago."
In regards to Johnson, Bender told the newspaper that "even if I see just one thing I could help with, it will be worth it."
He also added one other thought about being on the bag this week.
"I’m not caddying to finish second,” Bender told the Register.