Zach Johnson already won a red plaid jacket this year at Colonial Country Club. And, of course, he owns the green jacket from Augusta National in 2007.
So what does he get for winning the John Deere Classic near his home state of Iowa, a pair of overalls?
Better make those gold-plated overalls – do they make such a thing? – after Johnson's "Midwestern Miracle" on Sunday. That's what I'm calling his slobber-inducing 6-iron from a fairway bunker to six inches for birdie on the second playoff hole at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill. Call it what you want, but it will vie for time on the PGA Tour's season-ending highlight reel next to Bubba Watson's "Hook Shot from Heaven" to win the Masters and Tiger's "This Is How Jack And I Do It" holed chip-shot at the Memorial.
Maybe the best part about Johnson's Deere-winning birdie was the fact that he didn't incur a two-stroke penalty to close matters out.
Oh! Yes, Zach, we all still remember your failure to move your ball mark back after moving it on the 72nd green at Colonial, turning your three-shot win into a one-shot win. To which, I'm sure, Zach Johnson would respond: "You want to remind me of that embarrassment? How do you like these gold-plated overalls, loser?"
Mild-mannered, devout Zach Johnson would never say such a thing. But it'd be fun if he did.
Instead, he heads to Royal Lytham and St. Anne's for this week's British Open – or, Open Championship for you proper ones – once again as a hot name to watch. That is, if he can adjust to the time change, lack of shower pressure and dearth of ice cubes for soft drinks in England. (Yes, as a veteran of four British Opens, the shower pressure/ice cube scarcity still lurks.)
Truth be told, I've never understood any player in the Open Championship who chooses to play in the States the prior week. For guys such as John Deere runner-up Troy Matteson, who are fighting to qualify, of course it makes sense. Matteson jetted to Great Britain Sunday night/Monday morning on the strength of his Deere finish, and jet lag never felt so good.
But if you have your spot, like Zach Johnson, the idea of traveling a week ahead of time to adjust, relax, maybe play the Scottish Open (Phil Mickelson does every year) and start your search for ice cubes makes sense.
Unless, I guess, you're Zach Johnson – Midwestern hero.
As Bill Macatee and Ian Baker-Finch reminded us many times over, the sacred ground of the Midwest means as much to the Zach Johnsons as Tara meant to Scarlett O'Hara, or as Hooters parking lots mean to John Daly. Repeatedly, we were told the John Deere is "like a major" for the Iowa-born-and-bred Johnson. While I appreciate hometown vibes as much as the next guy, I'm thinking if you put a 5-iron to Zach Johnson's head in private, he'd admit the "major" he won means a little more than the John Deere, which is "like a major," except it's not.
Maybe for Johnson, the idea of landing in England on Monday, taking probably two days to adjust to the time change and ice cube search, is worth it. Still, history indicates it's not a Claret Jug-friendly move. You have to go back to Todd Hamilton in 2004 to find an Open champion who played the John Deere the previous week, and he's the only one this century to do so.
Or, maybe the John Deere win means more to Johnson than a Claret Jug. Surely, a Sunday 65 goes a long way, and he joins Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh as the only players with nine wins and a major since 2004. After Johnson won at Colonial, it was eight wins and a major for that list, but now the cotton – or corn – is even taller.
Plus, he was able to craft one of the season's finest shots. It's a good thing he produced that 6-iron, too. The first playoff hole featured Hall of Shame shot-making, as first Matteson dunked his approach into the 18th hole's hazard. Then, almost inexplicably, Johnson did the same thing, even knowing that if he played it safe, he'd probably win. Both made double bogey, and marched back to the 18th tee.
It was then when Zach Johnson further burnished his legend amid the barn-raising crowd. Midwestern golf fans are so nice that even when a young golf fan picked up Matteson's errant tee shot on the 18th hole, he realized his mistake and placed it back on the grass. Either that, or the little miscreant was busted, and had no choice. But let's stick with the warm-and-fuzzy Midwestern angle, and wave to Zach Johnson as he drives his John Deere tractor to the airport, ready to wing it over the pond and bring more glory for the heartland.
Scorecard of the week
68-68-68-66 – 10-under 270, Roger Chapman, winner, U.S. Senior Open, Indianwood Golf and Country Club, Lake Orion, Mich.
And with that, a Champions Tour player who most of us have never heard of, equaled a feat only accomplished by Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Hale Irwin: winning the Senior PGA and the U.S. Senior Open in the same year.
Or, as they might say in his home country: What a chap, man.
Roger Chapman took advantage of a Bernhard Langer meltdown, stormed from four shots back and played some pure golf under pressure. His 5-iron on the 17th hole to kick-in distance was, simply, "the best shot of my life," according to Chapman. Who are we to argue? Most of us have only seen him hit a handful of shots in all of his 53 years.
Chapman's story is that classic dilemma for the Champions Tour. While there is much merit to seeing a player who only won once in his entire European Tour career blossom in his 50s to win America's biggest senior events, it would take a hardcore, dedicated Champions Tour fan to stick with him, enjoy him, root for him, get into him.
In the meantime, the leaderboard featured challenges from Corey Pavin, Tom Lehman and third-round leader Langer – all names that would draw in the casual golf fan. Allen Doyle was that same sort of story as Chapman on the Champions Tour, a late bloomer with a good story, but it took him years and years of wins to make a dent in the golf fan's consciousness.
Chapman, meanwhile, takes half-a-million bucks, the legacy of Nicklaus/Player/Irwin and a big trophy, leaving us to figure out the rest.
Broadcast moment of the week
"What a nice ovation for Zach Johnson … this means a lot to him. This is like his fifth major." – Ian Baker-Finch, CBS, as Johnson walked up 18 in regulation, owning a two-stroke lead.
"He loves them, and they love him right back. Now, over to 17 … " – Bill Macatee, CBS, about to unwittingly crush Johnson's – and the crowd's buzz.
Pretty classic "D'oh!" moment for CBS, Johnson and the crowd here.
Just as the Midwestern coronation was on for Johnson, Matteson launched a 50-foot eagle putt on 17. Surely, he wouldn't make it to tie for the lead.
Except, he did.
With élan, too, as the golf ball circled the circumference of the cup before falling, as if to say: Tootle-oo, Zach, here we are!
The cameras caught Johnson whipping his head to the right, in the direction of the 17th hole, as he heard the roar. Suddenly, the John Deere love-fest became a giant "Holy smokes, did we jinx this thing?" thought bubble over the crowd.
Matteson was the evil interloper, ruining the Zach Johnson party. He didn't care. He made eagle to tie for the lead on the 71st hole.
Johnson would exact his revenge with that 6-iron out of the fairway bunker in the playoff, saying as emphatically as a soft-spoken Iowan can: "That is for ruining my 18th hole party, amigo."
Mulligan of the week
If ever a golfer would appear to be the calmest guy in the world, it'd be Bernhard Langer. His face probably last registered emotion when he happily found a barber in the 1980s who fashioned his permanent mullet.
He's so mellow, you'd think he was choke-proof, even with the missed putt at the 1991 Ryder Cup. And with a four-stroke, 54-hole lead at the U.S. Senior Open, you'd think it was all locked up.
You'd think wrong.
Proving even the great stoic can sometimes be frazzled, Langer threw away his big lead with a double-bogey on the 2nd hole that included a pushed drive and a skulled bunker shot. Presto, Langer was on the ropes. He'd shoot 72 and watch Chapman speed past him.
I blame this on what I call the "Curse of Scorpions." Langer came on our KNBR radio show in San Francisco, and our producer, Patrick Connor, coaxed me to ask Langer if he had any records by the great German metal group, Scorpions. (Patrick being a Scorpions' fan, and Langer being on morning radio made this an obvious question in some quarters.)
Langer blanked us. He'd never heard of Scorpions, he said.
Say what? Never heard of Scorpions? How could he ever hear the words "There's no one like you/I can't wait for the night with you/I imagine the things we'll do" and not get Teutonic chills?
Langer hasn't won a Champions Tour event since February 2011. Coincidence? You tell me. Or better yet, tell Scorpions founder Rudolf Schenker, who I'd imagine is a big Langer fan.
Anyway, I like Langer. He's a classy player, led a Ryder Cup romp when he was captain of Europe and is so fit he still can wear the same size green jacket he won in 1985 at Augusta National.
Plus, he was trying for his second U.S. Senior Open in three years, having won in 2010.
So let's go back out to the 2nd tee, remind Langer what a calm, cool, collected dude he is, maybe even tell him to watch out for the "Wind of Change" coming from the west, and encourage him to rock the golf ball "Like a Hurricane" and … give that man a mulligan!
Where do we go from here?
Wake up early, American golf fans. It's the Open Championship, or British Open, which has been owning the golf world since 1860. In American terms, that's nearly 100 years before Dwight Eisenhower installed a putting green at the White House. Heck, that's so long ago, Abraham Lincoln was only a presidential candidate, and spent much of the summer of '60 doing MSNBC, Fox and CNN sound bites.
All eyes, naturally, are on Tiger Woods. Tiger did his part to spread the positive energy by blogging that the British is his "favorite" major. The British press, ever-scandalous, immediately twisted his words, printing that it's Tiger's "favourite" major. Controversy!
Who knows what to expect from three-win, two-missed-cut, 2012 Tiger Woods? His major drought is now officially four years-and-one-month, and he hasn't won a British Open since 2006. Since then, it's been players like Padraig Harrington (16th at the Scottish Open), Stewart Cink (breaking Tom Watson's heart), Louis Oosthuizen (a blowout that maybe even he still doesn't grasp) and Darren Clarke (a send-off for his career, really). In other words, anything can happen with the quirky swales, baked-brown greens and unpredictable winds of Lytham.
And with 15 players winning the last 15 majors, your guess is as good as mine. Heck, if Tiger wins, it'll be 16 different players winning the last 16 majors. That's how wacky it's been in the post-Tiger Era, which we can fairly call the years after 1997-2009.
All I know is, Zach Johnson will be there. Look for the tractor in the parking lot, or car park, as they call it over there. Got to start preparing for the language barrier.
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