Johnson driven by defence of the Claret Jug
Zach Johnson, the 2015 Champion Golfer of the Year, today returned the Claret Jug to the safe-keeping of Martin Slumbers, the Chief Executive of The R&A, then vowed to do his best to win it back at The 145th Open at Royal Troon on Sunday.
“I don’t need inspiration or motivation to play this tournament,” the 40-year-old American player said. “This is one of the highlights on my calendar every year and always has been.”
Few who witnessed Johnson’s victory in the 144TH Open at St Andrews last year will forget the excellence of his play over the final day and the way in which he kept his nerve to win a three-man play-off against South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, winner in 2010, and Marc Leishman of Australia.
“I’m still in awe of what happened,” the 2007 Masters Champion said. “I remember some shots, but it was everything that transpired after playing the 18th that really stands out.”
Johnson was particularly touched, he said, by the response of his fellow professionals to his victory:
“Jordan (Spieth) came out and gave me a hug, which was pretty cool. Also, getting sincere handshakes from Mark Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen meant a lot. They were dejected and probably not feeling great, but at the same time they were genuinely happy for me.”
Last year Johnson delighted in taking the Claret Jug along the banks of fans that had stayed behind to salute him at St Andrews and then slept with it cradled in his arms on the flight back to the United States. This year, he says, he “parted ways emotionally with it at home,” describing the parting as bitter-sweet, though more sweet. “A portion of the sweetness is you still have an opportunity to get it back.”
Johnson’s debut at The Open came at Troon in 2004. He missed the cut that year but admits that he immediately fell in love with links golf. “The beauty of this style of golf is that you’ve got to have everything,” he explained.
“You’ve got to hit your driver high; you’ve got to hit your driver low. You’ve got to hit it right; you’ve got to hit it left. And that goes with every club in the bag. You’ve also got to use the wind.”
And his final word on The Open? “I think it’s purity.”