CEDAR RAPIDS - Earlier this season, a reporter asked Iowa City West boys' tennis coach Mitch Gross about the #x201c;triple crown#x201d; of prep tennis.
At the time, Gross dismissed the thought of winning a state championship in singles, dou ... »
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SILVIS, Ill. — As Zach Johnson sank his fifth birdie putt in a 7-hole stretch Thursday morning at the John Deere Classic, thunder boomed the instant the ball fell in the cup.
OK, sorry. That didn’t happen. But it would have been cool if it had.
Actually, Johnson made a 4-footer for par at No. 3, his 12th hole of the day. As he walked off the green, he looked at daunting dark clouds that had suddenly taken over a sultry morning and said “Oh crap.”
Yeah, a hard rain fell shortly after that. But it was anything but an “Oh crap” day for Johnson, even with the 3 ˝-hour weather delay that began mere moments after he peered skyward.
“As far as the start-and-stop, we’re used to that,” he said. “(Rain delays) happen all the time,”
It took 8 hours and 25 minutes for Johnson to complete his first-round, 6-under-par 65 that was as good as any player in the field who completed his round Thursday.
Patrick Rodgers and Ryan Moore also finished their rounds with 65s. Many players didn’t get their rounds finished Thursday and will resume them Friday morning, weather permitting. More rain is expected.
You don’t want to stop playing when you’re hot, and Johnson was hot when the horn sounded that commanded everyone off the course.
“I would like to have continued my round, certainly, after playing No. 3,” he said, “but a solid day.”
After a nothing-happening first four holes, he started playing like the familiar John Deere Johnson. That’s the guy who came here with 28 straight rounds in the 60s, the guy who finished no worse than third place in six of the last seven JDCs.
Johnson started his round on the 10th hole, and proceeded to make par on that par-5. Which is like giving a half-stroke to the field. It’s a birdie hole.
He then went par-par-par. He missed a 5-foot putt for birdie on 13. You get buried in this tourney shooting par golf. But you get buried worse in this sport when you put pressure on yourself.
This guy from Cedar Rapids, if you hadn’t heard, is a veteran who tends to rule his emotions rather than vice versa.
“There’s a lot of golf (left),” Johnson said. “That’s really what it is. That’s what Dr. Mo (sports psychologist Dr. Morris Pickens) and I talk about. Wait for your stretch. There’s a stretch coming, just wait for it.”
It came. Johnson splashed in a 16-foot putt for birdie on 14, a 22-footer for birdie on 15, and a 16-footer for birdie on 18. He also birdied Nos. 17 and 2, the other two par-5s. Thus, those five birdies over seven holes.
When play resumed after the delay, he shot 1-under over his last six holes. His 14-foot putt gave him a birdie on No. 6, and he scrambled to save pars on Nos. 8 and 9 to end the round.
Johnson isn’t getting into the whole seeking-redemption thing, but the way last year’s JDC ended rankles him 13 months later. He finished a shot out of a playoff with Tom Gillis and winner Jordan Spieth.
“I was not happy when I left here last year,” he said. “I felt like I certainly had the opportunity to win that golf tournament, and everybody can say they’ve missed shots, but I felt like I kind of gave one away.
“But then the next week something happened that was pretty good.”
That was a British Open championship. Still, this is Johnson’s “home” tourney. He’s been on the JDC’s board of directors for many years, and John Deere is one of his corporate sponsors. And, oh yeah, he plays really well here.
“I don’t know what it is,” he said, “but I love the golf course.”
Twenty-nine consecutive rounds in the 60s probably makes the heart grow fonder.