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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Ten years ago, every golf media person here wanted to know about the life and times of Masters-champion Zach Johnson.
After Johnson missed the 36-hole Masters cut by one shot Friday afternoon, the media pack seeking his comments was a party of one.
Such is golf, such is sports, such is life. Ups, downs, a lot of in-between. Johnson’s second-round, 2-over par 74 for a 7-over total of 151 was a down.
“To the lay person,” Johnson said, “someone would say he shot 7-over, he played terribly. Well, my short game was not good. My game’s fine. The frustrating thing is my game’s fine and I missed the cut, and I’m not playing the weekend at Augusta.”
If he’d gotten just one more stroke out of that short game -— pitching, chipping and putting -— he would have been playing here Saturday and Sunday.
But, Johnson said, “my short game was D-plus. I know how to chip and putt here. It’s usually about a B.”
It was a bouncy ‘B’ when he tied for ninth here in 2015. You know what it was in 2007 when he won. An ‘A’ with a gold star, blue ribbon and green jacket.
Johnson missed three putts from inside five feet in his two rounds this year, including a 3-footer for birdie on No. 10 Friday. He was 6-of-13 in putts from 5 to 10 feet, 1-of-9 from 10 to 20 feet.
Rickie Fowler is first, Charley Hoffman fifth and Sergio Garcia ninth, and Thomas Pieters 13th in strokes gained putting. They share the second-round lead at 4-under.
Johnson was 77th in the 93-player field in strokes gained putting, tied for 84th in scrambling.
That isn’t the Zach Johnson golf knows, and he knows it.
“It was frustrating considering I’m hitting it plenty fine,” he said, well enough “to not only make the cut, but potentially being in contention. That’s where the frustration is.
“But if I keep swinging it like this, I know things will turn around. It’s just a matter of when.
“I know exactly what needs to happen with my ball-striking and short game. That’s what I’m clinging to. One, I’m swinging it really, really, really well. Two, I’ll be able to remedy, fix, even polish what needs to happen.”
The season moves on, with so much ahead. But this hurts. There are players who were happy just to earn a berth here. There are others who have surpassed the level of “successful PGA Tour player” and are defined by how they perform in majors.
Johnson has resided in the top 50 of the World Golf Rankings for the last decade, and has been as high as seventh. (He currently is 49th.) He has nine career Top Tens in majors. He won the 2015 British Open, tied for eighth at last year’s U.S. Open, tied for 12th at last year’s British.
Players like that build their years around those tournaments.
“There’s only one Masters and four majors every year,” Johnson said.
From the untrained eye to the most-distinguished golf instructor, watching these pros battle this course and two days of relentless wind left all with the same distinct impression.
Golf is hard.