Johnson struggling with rhythm

Cedar Rapids’ Zach Johnson, teeing off on the 16th hole during the third round of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, shot an even-par 72 Saturday. (USA Today)
Cedar Rapids’ Zach Johnson, teeing off on the 16th hole during the third round of The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, shot an even-par 72 Saturday. (USA Today)

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Zach Johnson delivered an up-and-down round of even-par 72 Saturday during the third round of The Players Championship.

The Cedar Rapids golfer’s round included six birdies and six bogeys. He trails co-leaders Jordan Spieth and Martin Kaymer by eight shots.

Johnson sits in a tie for 24th at 4-under par for the week while the leaders are at 12-under. The 11-year PGA Tour veteran just could not make a significant move Saturday after beginning his day with a bogey on the first hole.

“I missed the fairway by two feet on the first and had a jumper (lie in the rough),” Johnson said. “It goes over the green. I wasn’t planning on that.”

Johnson chipped his third shot from behind the green up to the fringe and missed his 18-foot putt for par.

But Johnson has made a habit of bouncing back from bogeys this week with a birdie on his very next hole, and he did it again on the second hole Saturday. In fact he’s bounced back from bogeys an impressive 50 percent of the time this week, which ties him for second place for this championship in this field that many consider the deepest of the year.

“Maybe there’s a hard hole and then the next one I feel like I can get after it but I don’t know if it’s me being resilient or if I’m just making shots,” Johnson said.

The 38-year-old added birdies at 4, 7, and 9 with a bogey on 8 and made the turn at 2-under 34.

Johnson made his longest putt of the day on the par-4 7th, pouring in a 25-footer for birdie.

“That was the only putt I really made today,” Johnson said. “I just struck a nice putt and had a good read on it.”

Johnson has been riding a hot putter of late and he knows that executing with his iron game is a big part of earning more chances to score on the greens.

“Everything is good. I think it’s just rhythm for me that’s really the most important thing,” Johnson said of his iron-play. “I’m on plane, my technique is fine, it’s just a matter of going out there and executing.”

Johnson finished his back nine with a 2-over par 38 with four bogeys to go with two birdies. He said he misjudged some of his distances on 10 and 12 and hit his lob-wedge 25 yards further than normal on the 12th hole when he hit it over the green.

“I probably played better (Saturday) than I did (Friday), I just didn’t score as well,” Johnson said. “It’s a hard golf course but I was in a better rhythm (Saturday). I hit a lot more crisp shots.”

One of his crisper shots came on the famous island green par-3 17th Saturday when he stuck his 127-yard tee shot to five feet and went on to make the birdie.

Johnson fashioned a brilliant finish on the demanding par-4 18th on Friday with a long drive, wedge to 8 feet, and subsequent birdie.

On Saturday he nearly replicated it.

“I basically played 18 the same way today and I just didn’t make the putt,” Johnson said.

He missed the 10-footer and settled for par. But an even-par 72 with six bogeys on the card is the mark of a tenacious fighting competitor-and Johnson is no stranger to that.

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