Zach Johnson Leads Hyundai at Halfway Point
By Rodney S. Yap
Professional golfers make a living submitting par-fives, and the long holes at The Plantation Course are annually pummeled by eventual winners of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
After all, the massive Plantation Course is driver friendly and players who are big off the tee are rewarded handsomely.
Zach Johnson, however, is not of that philosophy and neither is his golf game, which happens to be one of the hottest on the PGA Tour since July when the 2007 Masters champion earned seven top-10 finishes in 10 official US tour events.
“I never really get too caught up in scores, or placement, like where I’am at (on the leaderboard),” said the 37-year-old Johnson, who is seeking his 11th PGA Tour win. “I go to work every week, that’s my mindset right now. I’m comfortable. Comfortable with the make-up in my bag . . . and my putting. I’m just trying to be patient.”
Johnson’s fine-tuned wedge play — and patience — helped him build a three-shot lead at the halfway point of the 2014 opener with a bogey-free 66 on Saturday, that did not include a single birdie at any of the four par-fives. Instead, he hit a series of wedge shots close to the pin on the par-fours and putted well enough to post a 13-under total of 133.
“You know I parred every one of them,” Johnson said of the par-fives.
Like many, Johnson was happy to see the return of the prevailing trade winds.
“If you have the proper winds, for me not being a bomber, I feel like I can take advantage,” said Johnson, who is known for his accuracy off the tee and stellar short game. “There were a lot of wedges today and that’s where I’ve got to continue to stick it close, with those wedges.”
One stroke off the lead overnight after opening with a six-under-par 67, the American broke clear of a log-jammed leaderboard, making seven birdies against the elite 30-man champions field at Kapalua’s picturesque resort.
Matt Kuchar (68), Jordan Spieth (70) and defending champion Dustin Johnson (66) were tied for second place, with fellow Americans Webb Simpson (71) and Michael Thompson (71) another stroke back at nine under.
“The more I get my feet here, the more I walk these grounds, the more comfortable I become,” Johnson said after hitting 16 of 18 greens in regulation and taking 30 putts. “I don’t know how many years I’ve been here. This is seven or eight probably, and I’ve had maybe one or two decent finishes, but nothing so spectacular.”
In contrast, Dustin Johnson birdied seven of the eight par 5s he’s played this week.
“It was back to a pretty normal wind here today . . . I thought the golf course played a little tougher yesterday. Today it was in great shape and I played a little better,” said Dustin, who birdied six of the first nine holes.
“This golf course sets up well for me. I can reach all the par-fives and then there are a few short holes where you can drive it up close to the green. If I chip and putt it well, I’m going to shoot a good score pretty much every time around here.”
Masters champion Adam Scott of Australia, the world No. 2 and highest-ranked player on Maui, carded a second successive 70 to end the day at six under, seven strokes off the pace.
“It’s not going to be easy my first time,” said Spieth about contending. “Luckily I have been playing against these guys now for five or six months consistently. They are buddies of mine so it’s going to fun to go out there and compete, because that’s what it’s all about.
“The thing is in the third round I need to be a lot more patient. Last year it was my highest scoring average. I was trying to get to close to the lead before the final round and that threw me back. On Sunday’s I made up for it and sometimes backed my way into the top 10 but ultimately I have been in position after the first two rounds a lot, but I can’t take it for granted and I need to be a lot more patient than I did last year.”
Round 2 – Complete
Humidity 58% / Wind ENE 16 MPH / 81° Clear