Zach Johnson shot a second straight 69 on Friday and appears to be on the right side of the cut line at 4-under in the John Deere Classic, though several players didn’t finish their second round due to a lengthy rain delay.
And while Johnson certainly hopes to close in on leader JT Poston this weekend, many of the questions he answered on Friday were about his victory at the 2015 British Open, when the American captured the title in a four-hole aggregate playoff, beating South Africa. Louis Oosthuizen and Australian Marc Leishman.
When he finished and was declared Golf Champion of the Year, Johnson took the Claret Jug on a victory lap down the 18th fairway of the Old Course at St. Andrews. He did it down the street, giving fans a high-five and allowing them to touch one of the most prized trophies in all of sports.
It was a fitting tribute from Johnson, who declared himself “just a regular guy from Cedar Rapids, Iowa” when he stunned the world by winning his first Grand Slam, the Masters, in 2007.
But while the masses watched him bask in victory with fans at St. Andrews, what many don’t know is how the 12-time PGA Tour winner celebrated with the esteemed hardware when he returned to American soil.
He opened up on the subject on the Friday after the second round in Silvis, Illinois.
“I arrived in the early hours of the morning the next day. I landed in Jacksonville, about an hour from my house,” Johnson said. “I walked into St. Simons where I live and met some friends with my wife, with Claret Jug and some friends and no one else at Waffle House at 4 a.m. That was awesome.”
Johnson elaborated on the experience, noting that it became more meaningful when he spent time with his wife, Kim.
“It was the second Open Championship my wife has attended, so sharing that with her was special. With the kids and the schedule and things of that nature, he just hasn’t gone that far. We were there together all week,” Johnson said. “The other thing that was really cool afterwards was walking into the R&A building which is basically right behind the 18th green/first tee. Walking in there and having a little chat with the R&A members, officials, was really special. See some of the history there that they had from a very, very, very old building. Probably older than this country.
“You know, they hugged me and obviously accepted me, it was something I will never forget. It was Peter Dawson’s last chance as captain of the R&A, so I was his last champion. Since then, we have become very good friends.”
As for his run on Friday, Johnson said he was happy to get a good score, especially after the difficult conditions during the first round on Thursday.
“Today was much more manageable and achievable. Yesterday, I probably put better on the whole. It probably hit him just as well today; he didn’t play many wedges up close today,” she said.
“So today was a day of opportunities that I let pass by. I hit my driver well, I hit a lot of fairways, I gave myself a lot of chances. I just couldn’t capitalize on my wedges. That’s normal, and it’s also a bit frustrating.
“But at the same time, I hit some good shots and gave myself chances on almost every hole, especially going in. That’s all you can ask for.”