Zach Johnson hit 13 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation in the first round on Thursday.
By Craig DeVrieze, Special to PGATOUR.COM
SILVIS, Ill. – Zach Johnson picked up where he left off at the tournament he calls his hometown event.
The defending John Deere Classic champion matched his best round in 12 starts at TPC Deere Run, a 7-under 64 that gave him a share of the first-round lead.
“That doesn’t stink,” said Johnson, who grew up 90 minutes west of the Quad-Cities and has served as a player representative on the tournament board since 2005.
A nine-time winner on the PGA TOUR, Johnson is tied with Camilo Villegas, who needed only 26 putts to post a 64 of his own. They hold a one-shot lead over the trio of Brendon de Jonge, Daniel Summerhays and Matt Bettencourt.
Another 20 players are within three shots of the lead, including three-time John Deere Classic winner Steve Stricker and Davis Love III, who each carded rounds of 67 playing with Johnson in a featured morning threesome.
The 7,257-yard, par-71 D.A. Weibring-designed golf course yielded 91 subpar rounds, but showed some teeth in the afternoon, when only Kevin Streelman and Boo Weekley (66) could close to within two shots of the leaders.
With 41 wins between them, Johnson, Stricker and Love drew a sizable morning gallery as what is likely the most accomplished grouping in the tournament’s 43-year history.
By Craig DeVrieze, Special to PGATOUR.COM
SILVIS, Ill. – It's hard to believe there was a time when it seemed like contending in his hometown tournament was too tall a task for Zach Johnson.
The nine-time PGA TOUR winner from nearby Cedar Rapids, Iowa, opened his defense of last year’s John Deere Classic title with a 7-under 65 to snare a share of the early lead with Camillo Villegas.
It was Johnson’s 17th straight round in the 60s at TPC Deere Run, a four-year stretch of home bred success that has seen him finish T2, T21, T3 and, of course, first.
In seven starts here between 2002 and 2008, Johnson’s highest finish was a tie for 20th and he had missed three cuts. Meanwhile, speculation mounted that playing in front of family, friends and galleries stocked with adoring Iowans might have adversely impacted Johnson’s game.
“I have always felt comfortable here, regardless of my numbers,” he said. But he conceded learning to manage expectations, both his own and those of others, while also serving his role as a player rep to the tournament board, was an ongoing process.
“It just feels natural now,” he said. “I’ve gotten so used to being here that it just feels very, very comfortable now.
“When you are comfortable with the surroundings, when you’re comfortable with the peripherals (it helps). My routine has been the same here the last three or four years. We’re staying in the same place. I’ve got my family here. The (John Deere Classic) staff does a great job of just letting me get into my game.”
Johnson also found a comfort level with his Thursday morning pairing, playing alongside Davis Love III, his close friend and Sea Island, Ga., neighbor, and with fellow Midwest native and Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teammate Steve Stricker, whose run of three straight John Deere Classic titles was ended by Johnson last year.
Johnson said Stricker’s recent run of success at TPC Deere Run has provided a template for managing his newest challenge – successfully defending a title close to home.
“I can only imagine winning this tournament twice in a row, let alone three times in a row,” said Johnson, whose nine career PGA TOUR wins include collecting the Valero Texas Open trophy twice in a span of seven months. “It’s just not easy.
“When you can embrace the positives you had from the previous years, previous rounds, that’s great. However, you still have to really just stay in the present. That’s what makes what Steve did that much more impressive. To take it to another level, that’s what makes what Tiger Woods has done over multiple years, on multiple golf courses, multiple events, repeating, defending, even beyond impressive.”
In a year where results have been lacking and his only top 10 finish came while defending at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, Johnson now is relying on the hometown comfort he has found here to carry him through to Sunday’s finish line.
And if that’s not the result?
“I can live with that, especially now that I have won here,” he said. “But even before that. I’m not trying to oversimplify it, but what I have done is just felt like, ‘You know what? It doesn’t matter if I shoot 85 or if I shoot 60. Friends and family are still going to be here, cheering for me.’ It’s just the fact of the game and where I am here. And I am so thankful for that.”
Zach Johnson is in the same spot he was a year ago at the John Deere Classic: Atop the leaderboard.
The defending champion opened with a 64 Thursday at TPC Deere Run, where he leads by one over Brendon de Jonge and Matt Bettencourt.
Three others are also at 6 under but still on the golf course.
Vaughn Taylor and Robert Streb are another stroke back, while three-time John Deere Classic winner Steve Stricker is at 4 under.
After seven birdies and no bogeys in the opening round, Johnson is now a combined 72 under dating back to the 2009 tournament.
Johnson is looking for his first win since last year's John Deere Classic.
Watch David Frost's wins, Ed Fiori holding off Tiger Woods, Kenny Perry's 2008 victory, Paul Goydos 59, a pair of Steve Stricker wins and Zach Johnsons clutch win in 2012.
Zach Johnson lost his lucky ball marker at Colonial, but found it later in the week. (How/Getty Images)
By Dr. Gregg Steinberg, Special to PGATOUR.COM
Superstitions exist in all walks of life. The number 13 is considered bad luck. Unbelievably, some office buildings skip that number as a floor. We don’t walk under ladders, and we would hate to break a mirror.
Golf is no exception when it comes to superstitions and good luck charms. Zach Johnson has a very special ball maker. Johnson’s wife, Kim, made him a ball marker that contains biblical phrases and verses that he reads during the round.
Johnson is not alone in his use of charms in hopes of bringing better scores. Superstitions have always been prevalent in golf. All-time great Chi Chi Rodriguez marks his ball with the head side up, and he never uses pennies as a marker. Then there’s two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw. He has been known to play only low-numbered balls -- one through four -- because he doesn’t want to make a score higher than that. And there are countless other golfers with charming behaviors such as these.
Why do golfers have superstitions? While many of these superstitions might seem a bit strange to an outsider, they provide an important purpose to our mental and emotional health. Life is very unpredictable. We want control where there is none, and superstitions make us feel more in control. By engaging in this action (e.g., always playing with a number two on our ball), we believe to have a greater influence over the outcome of the event (e.g. having a better score).
Furthermore, this perceived sense of control derived from our superstitions gives us a more relaxed attitude. Psychologists have determined that a greater sense of control over our environment will lead to less anxiety in our lives. Thus, superstitions can reduce our anxiety on the golf course and give us peace of mind about our game.
Would I, as a sports psychologist, recommend such habits?
Of course, as long as they are not counterproductive or inappropriate, such as skipping breakfast because you believe eating the day's most important meal has brought you bad luck in the past.
More important, you should develop positive superstitions, such as the belief that you must practice your putting for 10 minutes before every round. Goethe once stated, “Superstition is the poetry of life.” It is an art form to weave actions into your golf game that give you a peace of mind.
Bio: Dr. Gregg Steinberg is a regular guest every Tuesday on “Talk of the Tour” heard on the Sirius/XM PGA TOUR radio. He is a tenured professor of sports psychology and has been the mental game coach for many PGA TOUR players as well as top collegiate and junior golfer. Dr. Gregg is the author of the best selling golf psychology book, MentalRules for Golf, and you can get your autographed copy at www.drgreggsteinberg.com.
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Defending champion Zach Johnson started strong in Sunday's final round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Johnson. He birdied the first two holes and is now 10 under for the tournament through his first five holes on Sunday.
BIRDIE AT NO. 1: Johnson hits a 53-foot bunker shot to 7 feet on the par-5 1st and makes the putt for birdie. (Top video)
BIRDIE AT No. 2: Johnson hits his 65-yard approach shot to 9 inches on the par-4 2nd and make the putt for birdie. (Bottom video)
Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner are paired again at Colonial (Halleran/Getty Images)
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Seeing Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner paired together at a PGA TOUR event has become a familiar scene. Especially at Colonial.
A year ago at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, Johnson and Dufner were paired in the final two rounds of what essentially turned into match play for the title, as the two separated themselves from the rest of the field. Johnson eventually claimed his second title at Colonial, with Dufner finishing second.
This week, they are playing the first two rounds together, along with last week's winner of the HP Byron Nelson Championship, Sang-Moon Bae. The threesome tees off Friday at 1:33 p.m. ET.
"I totally enjoy it," Johnson, who opened his title defense with a 1-under 69, said about playing with Dufner. "We've always gotten along very, very well. We kind of went through the ranks together from the Web.com to the TOUR."
Said Dufner, who started with a 3-under 67: "It's always good playing with Zach."
Last year's Colonial weekend served as the first of many pairings for Johnson and Dufner the rest of the year. Because of their proximity to each other in FedExCup points during the Playoffs last year, they were paired in the first two rounds at the Deutsche Bank Championship, the first two rounds of the BMW Championship and the first round of the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
Then, of course, they were teammates on the U.S. squad at the Ryder Cup. They won both of their foursomes matches and lost one four-ball match.
Thursday was the first time they had been paired together this year.
"We're pretty familiar with each other's games," Dufner said. "We kind of play a similar game, so it's kind of easy to club off and kind of see how the course is playing."
Said Johnson: "I'd say his ballstriking is a little more consistent than mine overall, but for the most part, we're both pretty consistent."
Having played against and alongside Dufner for the past year, Johnson has come to appreciate his stoic nature.
"He plays very a-motional golf, I would say," Johnson said. "I like that. I like watching it. I like being around that.
"Plus, he's a good friend."
JOHNSON-DUFNER PAIRINGS SINCE 2012
|Tournament||Round||Johnson's score||Dufner's score|
|2012 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial||3||65||66|
|2012 Deutsche Bank Championship||1||70||67|
|2012 BMW Championship||1||67||72|
|2012 TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola||1||68||70|
|2013 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial||1||69||67|
JOHNSON-DUFNER AT 2012 RYDER CUP
|Foursomes||Beat Lee Westwood/Francesco Molinair, 3 up|
|Foursomes||Beat Nicolas Colsaerts/Sergio Garcia, 2 up|
|Four-ball||Lost to Rory McIlroy/Ian Poulter, 1 down|
Zach Johnson didn't play his best round but held it together for a 69. (Halleran/Getty Images)
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
FORT WORTH, Texas -- The best moment of the first round was a quiet exchange between caddie and player in the ninth fairway. Ryan Palmer had hit a 303-yard drive on his final hole and followed that up with a wedge to 5 feet. His caddie, James Edmondson, whispered, “Make that putt and you’ll tie my course record.”
Edmondson is a Colonial member and three-time club champion. With Edmondson's encouragement, Palmer made the putt for an 8-under 62. He knows the course so well, Palmer was not afraid to hit driver on most holes and knew his numbers so well, he never needed to look at his yardage book.
Frustrated: Zach Johnson seemed ready to make his move. He was 1 under and had 98 yards into the sixth green. Johnson pushed his sandwedge 10 yards right of the hole, into a bunker and made bogey enroute to a 69. It was such a bad shot, I wondered if Johnson had been in a divot. “Not a bad lie, just a bad swing,” was his answer. Frequently this season, Johnson seems ready for a charge that doesn’t materialize. He says a “lack of fundamentals” is the problem and while Johnson did not elaborate, he could be referring to his putting.
Johnson ranked eighth and 11th in strokes gained-putting the last two seasons but is 101st this year. He has always had an unusual address position while putting, with his hands even with -- or even slightly behind -- the golf ball. Johnson worked hard last season in getting his hands slightly forward at address but they appear to be even with the ball this year.
Inconsistent: Jason Dufner has had plenty of good rounds this year but has not had a good tournament. He has yet to post a top-10 finish and it’s puzzling. Dufner ranks 72nd in FedExCup points and is 47th in scoring average at 70.857. Dufner has struggled on the weekend, ranking 115th in third-round scoring and 165th in the final round. When a player consistently struggles, he knows he has to make changes. Dufner shows flashes of great play and then fluctuates. That is very frustrating for the player because the game keeps teasing him into thinking everything is fine and he doesn’t know whether to make changes or stay the course.
Color coordinated: Daniel Summerhays knows why he shot 65 in the opening round. Part of it was due to taking 23 putts and making nine birdies while averaging a tournament leading 1.182 putts per green. Those are all good reasons, but Summerhays wanted to talk about his clothing. He wore an orange shirt with gray pants and Summerhays says every time he wears that color combination he plays well. In fact, Summerhays says he might wash the shirt just so he can wear it again this week. If Summerhays keeps taking just 23 putts per round, it won’t matter what color combination he wears.
Let it fly: Colonial is known as a golf course for shot makers. The theory is you play for position off the tee, sacrificing distance for accuracy. Matt Every had a different plan and went with driver more than most other players. Every hit only eight fairways but averaged 302 yards off the tee. It led to a 5-under 65. Every reasoned a cool spring has lead to sparse bermuda rough and the course is not as punishing as it has been in the past.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.