Monday 24 October 2016

Zach Johnson: British Open used to be my least favourite Major

USA's Zach Johnson kisses the Claret Jug
USA's Zach Johnson kisses the Claret Jug

Zach Johnson can never have been so happy to have been proved so wrong after he claimed his second major title with a dramatic victory in the Open Championship at St Andrews.

At the start of the year, Johnson gave a press conference as defending champion at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii and was asked to name the three tournaments he was most looking forward to in 2015.

Johnson immediately thought of the year's four majors and, discounting the one constant venue of Augusta National - where he won the Masters in 2007 - the 39-year-old summed up his chances.

"No, no and no," he joked. "I don't even know where the (US) Open is.

READ MORE: Zach Johnson survives epic battle to win the British Open

"The British? No, no. That's my least favourite in the rotation. I say that and I love that tournament and I still like St Andrews. That's how much I love that tournament. I think St Andrews is terrific and it's my least favourite.

"I feel like it's one where you've just got to hit it left and you've got to hit it 290 in the air and it just doesn't favour me. I say that and I'm telling you right now it's my favourite tournament to play in and I like St. Andrews. It's just not my favourite of the other ones I've played.

"They're all so good. I mean Muirfield is phenomenal. My first was Troon and I thought that was terrific. Turnberry is great. Lytham is tremendous. Carnoustie is brutally hard, but it's great. That's my rationale there."

Any of the fans who endured rain and wind delays and were able to make it to St Andrews for just the second Monday finish in Open history would have been hard pressed to realise the Old Course was not Johnson's favourite.

An opening round of 66 left him one shot behind his namesake Dustin Johnson and a 71 on Friday meant he was three adrift of the same player when the second round was eventually completed on Saturday.

While Irish amateur Paul Dunne grabbed the headlines with a third round of 66 to share the lead, Johnson's 70 meant the entered the final round three off the pace and under the radar once more.

"I guess that radar is going bonkers right now", Johnson joked after a closing 66, including a vital birdie on the 18th for the fourth round in succession, took him into a play-off with 2010 champion Louis Oosthuizen and Australia's Marc Leishman.

And birdies on the first two holes of the aggregate play-off gave him enough of a cushion to survive a bogey on the 17th and make his first par of the championship on the 18th to secure the Claret Jug.

Next up is the US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits and, given what he said about St Andrews, it may be wise to ignore his thoughts on the venue from that very same press conference.

"I don't like Whistling Straits. I lost by a shot there and I don't like it," said Johnson, who finished a shot out of the play-off between Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson in the 2010 US PGA.

"I mean I played for four days the best four days of ball striking I've ever had consecutively. Didn't really like it, and I still don't like it.

"You've got to hit it good, you've got to putt it good obviously. I think it separates the field in that regard. To me it wants to be a links, but it's the furthest thing from it because it's all aerial. There's no run-ups. You've got to carry it here to carry it there, that kind of thing.

"Is it beautiful? Stunning. You feel like you're playing on the ocean. It's just contrived. That's why I don't like it."

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