Major challenge for Johnson

Masters champion isn't surprised he's not favorite at Oakmont

Posted: June 14, 2007

OAKMONT, Pa. - In April, nobody picked Zach Johnson to win the Masters. Except maybe Mrs. Johnson. But he owns a green jacket.

Now, nobody's picking him to win the U.S. Open, which might have something to do with the fact that nobody wins the first two majors in the same year unless they're named Ben or Arnie or Jack or Tiger. At least that covers the last half-century and change.

The only guy who can win the grand slam this year doesn't seem too concerned about his niche in the history of this goofy game.

"Like I said [at Augusta], there's a Zach Johnson roar and there's a Tiger roar, and they are vastly different," he reiterated.

Still, his world changed. It just hasn't altered him. He remains a grounded Midwesterner at heart.

"When it comes down to it, I don't try to dwell on the past," he said. "I stay in the present. I play Thursday for Thursday, and so on."

It didn't hurt that he won last month's AT & T Classic, in case anyone had already forgotten about him. He had to withdraw from the Memorial 2 weeks later after coming down with strep throat. But now he's rested and pretty much back to where he wants to be.

"I didn't have any expectations [about what would happen to him]," he said. "Even if I did they were completely wrong, after the fact. Just going to New York [to appear on "Late Night with David Letterman"] and that whirlwind was certainly hectic. But really cool. That 30-whatever-some hours we were there was awesome.

"That's not particularly me. But my wife kind of likes some of those things, so it worked out well. I don't care for the whole limelight deal. I'm more of a relaxed, hang out with family and friends."

He said the win at the AT & T at Atlanta validated "a little" what he'd done just up I-20 at Augusta a month earlier.

"Not that I necessarily needed to, but it spoke volumes," he said. "Just gave me the reassurance that Augusta certainly was not a fluke. Not that I ever thought it was. But you can, you know, get lucky at times. So Atlanta was huge in that respect . . .

"Augusta gave me the confidence to compete at a high level. The only sense of normalcy I've had for the most part [since then] has been inside the ropes. And I like it there. It doesn't really matter what the tournament is. Heck, it could be just playing at home with some friends. I still want to win. That's what drives me professionally.

"I feel good."

That's a reality nobody can dispute.

Tap-ins

The 2014 U.S. Open has been awarded, as anticipated, to Pinehurst (N.C.) No. 2, where Payne Stewart won in 1999 and Michael Campbell won 2 years ago. *

The 2014 U.S. Open has been awarded, as anticipated, to Pinehurst (N.C.) No. 2, where won in 1999 and won 2 years ago. *

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