Tale of two Zach Johnsons: Same name, very different results at PGA Championship

Dan Agnew
·2 min read
Utah club pro Zach J. Johnson, left, played a practice round with two-time major winner Zach H. Johnson at TPC Harding Park this week ahead of the PGA Championship. (PGA of America)
Utah club pro Zach J. Johnson, left, played a practice round with two-time major winner Zach H. Johnson at TPC Harding Park this week ahead of the PGA Championship. (PGA of America)

If you put money on Zach Johnson at the PGA Championship, don’t panic. That’s probably the wrong Zach Johnson you’re seeing in dead last.

In fact, the real Zach Johnson — two-time major winner and PGA Tour veteran — was tied for the lead at one point at the same moment his same-name counterpart was bringing up the rear at 150th place.

The more famous Johnson finished the day at 4-under and one stroke off the lead after the opening round on Thursday at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. If you placed a 100 to 1 bet on him to win this week at Bet MGM, you’re still in good shape.

The other guy, Zach J. Johnson, had a forgettable round of 12-over, the worst score in the field. There aren’t even odds listed on him anymore.

A major contender, he is not. In fact J. Johnson is only in the field because of a technicality caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s a 37-year-old club pro from Utah who usually spends his days teaching golf to amateurs, yet here he is competing with the best players in the world at one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world.

This is just the second time Johnson of Utah has competed with the PGA big boys, as he also played in the 2018 PGA Championship by finishing top 20 at the PGA Professional Championship qualifier. He missed the cut.

In 2019, he just missed out on qualifying in the same event but the event was canceled this year due to the pandemic. Because of that, the PGA Tour extended an invite to him based on his 2019 finish.

So the humble golf instructor, ranked 2,064th in the world, is back on the big stage and confusing folks who are used to the other Zach Johnson.

The two first met at the 2018 PGA Championship in St. Louis and it caused all kinds of mix-ups from fans seeking autographs from the tour pro, not the club pro.

“I wore my hand out signing autographs for people who wanted one from the real Zach Johnson,” Zach J. Johnson said. “I just signed them, smiled, and told each one, ‘Thank you.’ Not many of them knew we had two Zach Johnsons in the field.”

This year, the two Johnsons played a practice round together and exchanged pleasantries. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear the more decorated Zach Johnson rubbed off on the lesser-known one.

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