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Zach Johnson threw some serious shade on former Sports Illustrated and ESPN columnist Rick Reilly on Monday.
Johnson, who was named U.S. Ryder Cup captain for 2023 in Italy, typically lets his clubs do his talking, but he couldn’t resist needling the 11-time National Sportswriter of the Year. Reilly, who recently launched his latest book, “So Help Me Golf,” was in Johnson’s hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on a book tour when Johnson got him good.
It all dates to 2007 when the unheralded Johnson was the surprise winner of the Masters and Reilly was hardly impressed. Speaking on Dan Patrick’s radio show shortly after Johnson slipped into the green jacket, Reilly proclaimed, “I think Zach Johnson – in 10 years – has a real chance to be your server at Olive Garden.”
Well, Reilly’s hot take clearly didn’t age well, considering Johnson has gone on to win a second major, the 2015 British Open at St. Andrews, among 12 career PGA Tour titles. On Monday, Johnson reminded Reilly again that he shanked his prediction.
With Reilly speaking at Cedar Rapids Country Club, Johnson had his father, who was in the audience, present Reilly with an Olive Garden gift card for $30 – or the equivalent of the price of Reilly’s book.
“Uh, I was WAY wrong,” Reilly tweeted. “Monday night I was back in Iowa. Waiting for me was a present from him, a $30 gift card to fill my big mouth with.”
“Well done by them,” Reilly wrote in a text to Golfweek.
Reilly likely wasn’t the only one who thought Johnson would be delivering soup, salad and breadsticks to his table by now. Johnson, after all, wasn’t even the No. 1 golfer on his Drake University golf team and yet has become an enormous success story, banking more than $47 million in career earnings, which currently ranks 14th on the PGA Tour all-time career money list.
To his credit, Reilly has offered multiple mea culpas. In 2009, during a previous visit to Johnson’s hometown to host a TV show about Kurt Warner, Reilly said, “Of course, it turned out to be the dumbest comment in the history of golf commentary. Good for (Zach), he shut me up.” In response to an ESPN reader email calling him out for his bad read, Reilly conceded he blew this one and wrote, “If I don’t shut up, I’ll be working for him.”
And when Johnson won the British in 2015, Reilly ate crow again, tweeting his congratulations to Johnson and added, “at this rate, you’ll OWN Olive Garden.”
In 2007, Iowa's @ZachJohnsonPGA stunned golf by winning the Masters. I said, "In 5 yrs, Zach has a chance to be your waiter at Olive Garden." Uh, I was WAY wrong. Monday night I was back in Iowa. Waiting for me was a present from him, a $30 gift card to fill my big mouth with. pic.twitter.com/Y5ZCaDTUfu
— Rick Reilly (@ReillyRick) June 15, 2022