Zach Johnson Ready For U.S. Open

By Mike Hlas, Reporter

SILVIS, Ill. — It is the major tournament that has given him the hardest time, and it will be his first tournament after shooting 81-75 this weekend at the Memorial Tournament.

So is Zach Johnson down, is he apprehensive about next week's U.S. Open?

"I'm excited for next Thursday," he said.

Johnson had one last piece of business to attend to Monday before focusing on going to Merion Golf Club outside of Philadelphia to begin prepping for the 2013 Open. That was his appearance at the John Deere Classic's Media Day as the defending champion.

A member of the JDC's board of directors for several years and an unabashed fan of the tournament closest to his Cedar Rapids hometown, Johnson spent a good bit of time here touting the 2013 JDC, which is July 11-14 at TPC Deere Run. But he noted he has some important golf before that, primarily the Open.

Johnson had a rough weekend at Ohio's Muirfield Village in tumbling to 71st place the week after he was a strong third at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas. But despite that, he said, his game is on the upswing.

"I feel good about it," he said, "contrary to what you might think about the last couple days. I feel very good about it. I just got golfed out the last two or three days."

Johnson won twice — his eighth and ninth PGA Tour victories — and set a personal-high for money-earnings in 2012. His $4,504,244 ranked sixth on the Tour. This year, he is 57th with $898,173, and the Colonial finish is his only one in the Top 10.

"It's been humbling," said Johnson. "The humbling part is I was more off fundamentally than I care to admit, and my coach (Mike Bender) would say the same thing.

"We looked at some old footage and some current footage and tried to piece things together to figure out where I was and why I'm here. ... I've really started to see some good signs. Obviously, I played well at Colonial. Muirfield was just one week.

"I really like the state of my game and where it's going."

Johnson will get his first look at the U.S. Open site later this week when he makes a quick round-trip from his Georgia home to Pennsylvania. It will mark his 10th Open. A tie for 30th in 2011 is his best performance in the event. He has fared better in other majors, with a win at the Masters, a tie for third at the PGA Championship, and a tie for ninth at the British Open. The latter came last year.

"I feel like my game is prepared and ready for (the Open)," Johnson said. "I've played in every arena in golf and for the most part, excelled or executed when I had to in every arena. The atmopshere, the magnitude of it doesn't necessarily get to me any more."

After his Media Day remarks Monday, Johnson returned to the 18th-hole fairway bunker where he hit a 192-yard shot to within a foot of the cup in the JDC's sudden-death playoff last year. This was his third try, a fine shot. But it's best to save the magic for when it matters most.
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