ST. LOUIS – All he wanted was to be the best Zach Johnson he could be. Turns out, he was the best Zach Johnson in golf Friday.
There are two players going by the same name this week at the PGA Championship: Zach Johnson of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the two-time major winner, and Zach Johnson from Davis Park Golf Course in Utah, who was one of the 20 club pros to qualify into the year’s final major.
In the second round, the club pro shot 69 and the two-time major winner shot 70. The 69 wasn’t good enough to keep Utah’s Zach Johnson here for the weekend, but going under par was certainly not a bad way to wrap up his first stay at the PGA.
“The memories are countless,” said Johnson of Utah, who has gone by Zach J. Johnson on all the scorecards and placards this week to eliminate confusion. “Just that walk up 18, my caddie and I just kind of put our arms around each other and soaked it all in. We don’t get to do this every day.”
Many of the memories came, of course, in meetings with the “other” Zach Johnson. They played a practice round together, took lots of pictures and ran into each other in the locker room after the first round.
“He shot 66, I shot 76,” Zach J. Johnson said of their first-day scores. “I said, ‘Tomorrow, give me five a side and we’ll have a game.’ ”
He didn’t need the strokes.
“Today, I found a way to relax and just try and play golf,” Johnson said. “So, very pleased with the result of today’s round. It was fun.”
All wrapped up
Rickie Fowler isn’t looking for sympathy points. Turns out, he really doesn’t need them.
Fowler has been playing taped up this week because of an oblique strain he suffered last week at Firestone.
He says having his motion slightly restricted by the tape is actually helping, forcing him to make his swing more compact and gather all his speed at the bottom.
Fowler stood at 7-under par for the tournament, three behind leader Gary Woodland, when a thunderstorm hit Friday in the middle of Fowler’s round.
He had been keeping quiet about the injury but Dottie Pepper mentioned it on the TNT broadcast, and it was out there for the world to know.
During the delay, he was asked about it on TV.
“I’m playing with it, no excuses,” Fowler said. “It hurts from time to time but that’s the way it is.”
Club pro survives
Ben Kern was the lone club pro among 20 who teed it up this week with a chance to make the cut, thanks to a birdie at 18 that left him put him at even-par for the championship. With about half the field on the course when the rain delay stopped play, the cut line was holding at even.
The 34-year-old Kern is no stranger to the Midwest, having starred at Kansas State during his college days. He now teaches and plays out of Georgetown Country Club in Texas.
“I know deep down I’ve got a little bit of game left,” Kern said. “Obviously this week it’s definitely shining through a little bit.”
Kern tied for ninth at the PGA Professional Championship to earn a spot in the field. He opened with a 71 and was muddling along Friday until a pair of birdies over his final five holes gave him a chance to play the weekend.
“I’m surprised that I’m not as nervous as I thought I would be,” Kern said, “which is kind of throwing me off, which is actually kind of keeping me in the moment. It’s been nice.”
Move to May
Jordan Spieth is among those who can’t wait for the PGA Championship to move to May.
Spieth fought back Friday with a 66, and while he concedes that he’s not playing his best, adding to the frustration are the soft conditions of Bellerive.
“A little frustrated at this place in general,” he said. “This course would be phenomenal in, and probably is phenomenal, if it’s not playing so soft. And it’s not the rain that came on Tuesday, it was like that on Monday.”
Spieth said soft conditions mean players don’t have to be as precise around the greens, and he feels as though that takes away one of his advantages.
“Having said that, I would have shot a much higher score yesterday, given you’ve got to be in the fairways in order to hold greens where they need to be,” he said. “So I’m not saying that my score would be any better, I’m just saying what you would like to see in a major championship. I really like the golf course. It’s just you can’t possibly have firm, fast bent-grass greens with this climate.”
The PGA Championship will be held next year at Bethpage Black in May.
“I think May is going to be a lot better for this golf tournament for sure,” he said.
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