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Zach Johnson, Paired With Dufner, Prepares for Presidents Cup
By Garrett Johnston, Correspondent
DUBLIN, Ohio -- Zach Johnson is making his third appearance in the Presidents Cup event this week at Muifield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.
He will begin this four-day competition paired in today's four-ball matchplay with recent PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner. The duo will square off against Presidents Cup rookies Branden Grace and Richard Sterne of South Africa at 11:55 AM central time. It is the last of six matches on day one.
Dufner is a rookie technically to this team competition however he did play exceptionally well in the Americans' losing effort in last year's Ryder Cup at Medinah. Both Dufner and Johnson went 3-1 while many of the seasoned veterans struggled immensely.
Johnson's Presidents Cup record is 4-5-0 having played this event in 2007-the year of his Masters victory-and 2009, one of his three two-win seasons of his PGA Tour career.
This week Johnson has a bit a of challenge as he's just coming off a flu virus which he got on Sunday night. Instead leaving for Ohio then as he originally planned, he instead slept 16 hours to try and recover. By Monday his stomach had settled a bit and he was out on the course practicing with Dufner on Wednesday.
"Teeing off I felt great and by the third or fourth hole, I got a little energy drop," Johnson said. "If anything a little discombobulated, slight dizziness, but I'll be fine."
Johnson and Dufner played the back nine on Wednesday in preparation for their time as teammates today.
"I think it was just good to get a sweat quite frankly," Johnson said. "And my appetite is back, which is huge."
Known as one of the PGA Tour's ultimate grinders, Johnson seems to have this initial battle won as he heads into battle on the course today.
The Presidents Cup competition as a whole has been severely one-sided in the Americans favor since its inception in 1994. The US Team is 7-1-1 at this point as the tenth edition begins this morning.
Johnson and his teammates will taking that confidence from previous successes into tomorrow's first day of competition.
"We've been there before, we know what we want to do," Johnson said. "We know what we want to do in each format. We play a simple games as far as our game plan goes."
Johnson made it a point to not expound much more beyond that as far as the American team's game-plan to achieve it's eighth victory in this competition.
The format of this event is matchplay and the style of it will change from four-ball, which is two players playing their own ball against two of the other team, to foursomes on Friday, which is two players hitting alternate shots against two from the opposing team.
Saturday will be four-ball in the morning groups and foursomes in the afternoon, by far the longest day of the competition. And Sunday will be singles matches pitting players one-on-one in matchplay.
PGA Tour players typically see this course once a year in late May at Muirfield Village for the Memorial Tournament hosted by Jack Nicklaus.
For many of the Americans it should be a distinct advantage. Johnson, however, hasn't played that event since 2010.
In his practice this week at Muirfield Village Johnson does think that the rough, just like in late May, will be tough to negotiate out of.
"If you're going to hit more than a 6-iron out of there you've got a fantastic lie, and that's rare," Johnson said. "So more times than not (it) seems like you're chopping out with a wedge, 8, or 9-iron."
The pairing of Johnson with Dufner is one that Johnson believes will work well.
"I like to play what I call a-motional golf which essentially has zero emotion whether I'm playing good or bad," Johnson said. "I try not to get too caught up in outcome. Jason is a guy that I mean if I've got no emotion he might be borderline dead. So I think we are a good pairing in that regard just because we don't get caught up in a mistake or even a great shot."
Dufner shows almost no emotion on the course and his even-keeled mentality certainly worked in his triumph at Oak Hill for his first major championship in August's PGA Championship.
Johnson looks forward to the match-play aspect of this team event as a short break from the traditional medal-play of most PGA Tour events.
"I like it just because it's different," Johnson said. "It's not the normal medal, monotonous play that we play week-in, week-out, so anytime they incorporate something different I'm all for it."