Zach Johnson atop the JDC ... and so is “William”

Well-known Iowan shares 36-hole lead with anonymous McGirt

By Mike Hlas, The Gazette

SILVIS, Ill. — You’ve probably heard of one of the two 36-hole leaders at the John Deere Classic.

That undoubtedly would be Zach Johnson, Cedar Rapids native, 11-time PGA Tour winner, 3-time Ryder Cup player, Masters champion, etc.

The other guy is William McGirt.

McGirt is a fourth-year Tour veteran with no wins and six Top Tens in 111 career starts. He was born in Lumberton, N.C., lives in Boiling Springs, S.C., attended Wofford College. He is good at woodworking. According to the PGA Tour’s website, his favorite food is a hamburger.

“I’m just a regular guy,” McGirt said after shooting a 66 Friday to be tied with Johnson for the second-round lead at 12-under-par 130. “I’m just like everybody else. I think all my friends will tell you the same thing.

“Go out, play golf, have a couple of beers, watch a football game. Just nothing real flashy about me, nothing that stands out.”

The highest McGirt has finished in the Tour’s FedExCup standings is 74th. He is 96th this year. His World Golf Ranking is 181st. Johnson’s is 16th.

They will be third-round playing partners with Steven Bowditch Saturday at 11:50 a.m. Johnson has been in the top three at the end of his last eight rounds in this tourney. To the fans, Bowditch and McGirt will the other guys.

“I love being in that position,” McGirt said, “because you can go about your business and nobody really knows who you are. You can go to dinner and everybody kind of looks at you and goes ‘Are you a golfer?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘What’s your name?’ ‘William.’

“You just leave it at that, and they walk away and they’re like ‘Who was that guy?’ ”

McGirt is 35. He is 5-foot-8, 200 pounds. He spent several years playing on mini-tours before getting to the then-Nationwide Tour in 2010 and the PGA Tour the year after. His one pro win was the 2007 Cabarrus Classic on the Tarheel Tour.

He has played in just one major tournament, the 2012 PGA Championship. If he wins here Sunday, he’ll qualify for next week’s British Open, next month’s PGA, and next year’s Masters. You get the distinct impression he’ll be fine if that doesn’t happen.

“I honestly would not trade one day for all of Tiger Woods’ money,” McGirt said. “I would not trade places with him for one day. You look at the stuff he goes through. I’ve been around a few times when he’s just trying to get to or from the golf course. I wouldn’t want to go through that.

“I mean, it would be nice to have all the money and the fame and stuff that goes with it, but it would be a massive headache, and I wouldn’t want to put my family through that. That’s the big thing.”

But back to Johnson. He now has 22 straight rounds in the 60s at the JDC. His second-round 67 lacked the pizazz of Thursday’s 63, but he seemed content with it.

“It was, once again, a pretty solid day,” he said. I’m putting as well as I have this year.

“My short game was decent. My putting was great. Even the ones I missed were great. A lot of positives all around. I hate to be a tape recorder here, but I’m just really comfortable here.”

As Johnson reminded us, there are 36 holes remaining. Three-time JDC champ Steve Stricker is just three shots out of the lead after his second-round 65. Defending champion Jordan Spieth followed an even-par 71 on Thursday with a snappy 7-under 64 on Friday.

Stricker, Spieth, and everyone else in the field are chasing Johnson ... and McGirt.

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@sourcemedia.net

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