A look back at Zach Johnson's Masters win five years ago
It was cold. It was windy. And for Johnson, it was great.
I had the distinct pleasure of covering the Masters win of Zach Johnson's in 2007. I've witnessed a lot of unforgettable sporting events in my time at The Gazette. This, I believe, was the topper.
Since this marks the 5-year anniversary of the Cedar Rapids native's triumph, I'm offering a look back. I'll be back at Augusta this week, with columns and more from the 2012 Masters. Maybe the lone Iowan in the field will contend again.
Johnson missed tying Mark O'Meara for the Masters' Par 3 Contest low-score by one stroke. No one has ever won the Par 3 event and gone on to win that year's Masters.
Superstition didn't seem to be part of his pre-tourney mindset. Confidence did.
"Everything feels pretty good," Johnson said. "My putting's really good, I feel. My iron game's feeling darn good. The driver's coming along.
"I broke my driver about a month ago. I'm trying to find the right one. It's getting there."
An Associated Press writer called the Thursday conditions at Augusta National "breezy and brittle" in 2007.
Firm and fast, to be sure.
Johnson didn't get on the green of the par-4 first hole in two shots, and missed a 12-foot par putt. Yet, he had a little smile after starting the tournament with a bogey. Did he know something?
"My outlook this week is all about perspective," Johnson said after the round. "In other words, you've got to be patient and wait for the good things to happen. If the ball lands in a divot, hits a spike mark - that's why I was laughing. It was one thing my coaches and I talked about. You've just got to remain patient and trust in what you're doing."
Johnson's name went up on the massive, hand-operated leader boards across the course before his round was over. It would stay there the rest of the tournament.
Johnson finished his second round with three straight bogeys. Ordinarily, that might be the way a Masters ended for a player as he missed the 36-hole cut.
But it left Johnson with a 1-over-par 73 for a 36-hole score of even-par 144. He again was two strokes off the lead at the end of the round. The co-leaders were Wetterich and Tim Clark.
"I'm fine," said Johnson. "I have a lot more positives than negatives, I think.
"I executed well. I had some good saves, made some good putts, made some more good putts, and made some really, really good putts."
Johnson's tee shot at No. 16 was a few inches from rolling in the cup. But he missed two short putts after the near-ace, and took a bogey.
"The first one, I honestly think I had a gust of wind, because we read it to go straight in one way and it went the other way. It went downwind. And then my next putt hit a spike mark. I know I hit that one pretty well.
"Usually, you chalk something like that up to nerves. Honestly, I felt good over both putts; good reads and I hit them straight. It's just Augusta. I guess I got Augusta-cized or something, I don't know."
Damon Green, Johnson's caddy, said this after the tournament: “Most people, that three-putt (on 16) would’ve killed."
His putting overall, however, was as good as anyone else. His 53 putts through two rounds tied him for the fewest in the field.
"I'm very content with where I'm at. It's only Friday. I'll play tomorrow for Saturday."
Johnson shot a 4-over-par 76. And it was a actually a good score, good enough to keep him within two shots of the lead going into the final-round. The leader was Stuart Appleby.
It was cold. The wind-chill was 40 degrees, tops. It was the kind of cold unheard of at a Masters. The wind blew fiercely. The ground, already hard because of a spring drought, was even harder. Twelve of the 60 players who made the 36-hole cut shot in the 80s. The scoring average was 77.35, the highest for a Masters round the last 55 tournaments.
"The last five or six holes, I could barely feel my hands," Johnson said.
"Walking up 18, it felt like it was a fall day and I was playing college golf (for Drake University) and was forced to play. These are the kind of conditions that if you don't have to play, you don't play.
"It was tough. It was really, really tough. It was hard to swing, hard to putt."
It was so windy that Johnson and playing partner Vijay Singh (who shot 79) requested Masters volunteers to use leaf-blowers to clear three different greens.
"I guess if you're trying to find the beauty in it, it's just a matter of survival," said Johnson. "Par is a good score regardless of the hole, regardless of the situation, which I don't mind. Patience is of the utmost."
Johnson had just one birdie in the round, not atypical this day. He parred the last two holes, which was akin to gaining ground on much of the field.
Two shots back going into the final round of the Masters, and in the second-to-last pairing of Sunday.
"I'm going back to my bus," Johnson said. "I'm probably going to clean a poop diaper (of his 3-month-old son), I'm going to have dinner, and that's the way it's going to be. That's what I want."
You probably know this story. Johnson shot a 3-under 69. He birdied the 13th, 14th and 16th holes. His 10-foot birdie putt on 16 gave him a 3-shot lead. He won the tourney by two. Three players tied for second. One was Tiger Woods, who briefly held the lead in the final round.
It was the first time in 13 majors that Woods was in the final group of the day and didn't emerge the victor.
After their round ended with a tap-in par for Johnson, playing partner and good friend Vaughn Taylor told him "If you're not Superman, you're Superman 's brother."
Not true, Johnson said later.
"I'm Zach Johnson," he said in the champion's press conference in the Masters' media center, and I'm from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. That's about it. I'm a normal guy."
“Zach put his blinkers on and went,” said Appleby, who tied for seventh. “That’s the sort of player he is. He knew what he was up against, the type of players who were up there. Fantastic to him. It’s a great story, something different than a guy who wins 15 majors in a row.”
Five years later, golf commentators still make note of the fact Johnson didn't go for a single one of Augusta's four Par-5s in two shots, but was a cumulative 11-under on the Par-5s. His wedge play was fantastic. And he tied for second in driving accuracy over 72 holes.
“Zach chipped his way around,” Appleby said. “He neutralized us with smart play and good putting.”
Many players who had never before contended for a win in a major -- the vast majority of players, in fact -- would probably have wilted in that moment.
Not this Iowan. In a two-day period, he got a green jacket, an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman the following night, and the permanent status of "Masters champion."