Zach defies the wind to card a 66
Zach Johnson is not a man who is bothered by a bit of bad weather.
The 41-year-old American showed his peers when winning The Open at St Andrews in 2015 that he could handle a bit of the rough stuff but eyebrows were still raised in the locker room when he fired a four under par 66 in strong crosswinds during the second round at Royal Birkdale on Friday.
It was particularly impressive because during the opening round Johnson had carded a 75 and so needed a low score simply to make the cut.
“I didn’t see that coming,” said Ryder Cup colleague, Matt Kuchar, who had battled hard to return a one over par 71 to maintain his challenge at the top of the leaderboard. “That’s fantastic golf. It’s very, very impressive.
“Zach is great at grinding and putting the ball in the fairway and he must have done a good job at both today.”
Johnson had started his second round at 8.03am but, while most of the early starters were posting rounds in the mid-to-high 70s, he was firing five birdies and dropping just one shot.
Indeed, the only other player in the first 14 games on the course to break 70 was Masters Tournament champion, Sergio Garcia, and he did it by a whisker, carding a one under par 69.
The first of Johnson’s birdies came on the second and he was to add three more on the fifth, 11th and 12th before mis-clubbing on the 16th to drop his only shot of the day. He then parred the long 17th before holing a six-footer for a three in front of the packed grandstands on the final hole.
“It was really, really good,” he said. “I mean, I mis-clubbed on 16, I guess. I was on the green but I was probably 90 some feet away from the hole and three-putted. But, other than that, it was very solid.
“It was the complete opposite of yesterday, in fact. I guess my saving grace last night was that I knew I couldn’t get any worse.
“I had great rhythm out there today. I guess the other factor that just hit me is this is the wind I essentially practised in. I didn't have really too many opportunities to play yesterday's wind. But I can't really explain it. That’s golf, I suppose.”
Johnson’s 141 total leaves him handily placed at one over par to mount a challenge heading into the weekend.
“I feel good”, he said. “What I do know is that based on the last two days, you never know what is going to happen tomorrow. But, hopefully there's some confidence, momentum for the rest of the weekend.
“I don't mind grinding,” he added. “I don't mind having my back against the wall and having to fight. That's just what I've always done.”